Family Structure and Children’s Achievements

Publication type

Research Paper

Series Number



Working Papers of the ESRC Research Centre on Micro-Social Change


Publication date

March 13, 1998


In this paper we estimate the associations between several outcomes in early adulthood (educational attainment, unemployment, leaving home, early childbearing, distress and smoking) and a number of parental (or mother's) behaviours during childhood, including the mother's employment patterns, her age at the child's birth and the child's experience of life in a non-intact family. The analysis has been performed using a special sample of 1,400 young adults (and their mothers) selected from the first five waves of the BHPS, 1991-95. We estimate these associations with a linear probability model on the full sample and a restricted sample, which we analyse because of sample selection issues. We also estimate the same associations with a mother-specific fixed-effects estimator which imposes less restrictive assumptions than conventional linear probability estimators on the interpretation of the relationships of interest. We find that (i) experience of life in a non-intact family is usually associated with disadvantageous outcomes for young adults; (ii) mother's employment during childhood is usually associated with favourable outcomes for her offspring during young adulthood; (iii) there is a strong persistence across generations in early childbearing.

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