Dates of RWJF Funding: February 1, 1998 through December 31, 2011
Description: In 1998 a research team based at Princeton and Columbia universities implemented a national, long-term study of the causes and consequences of nonmarital childbearing and have disseminated the resulting data and findings to the academic and policy-making communities. The study is ongoing.
Out-of-wedlock births increased dramatically in the latter 20th century, and the researchers sought to fill what they viewed as an information void about this growing group of at-risk parents and their children—what the team termed “fragile families.”
The team guided interviews with approximately 5,000 parents in 20 large U.S. cities when their babies were first born, and tracked the families through follow-up interviews when the children were one, three, five, and nine years old. Approximately three-quarters of the couples were unmarried at the time of birth; the married one-quarter served as a control group.
The study yielded several major findings about the characteristics of unmarried parents and explained how these relationships and other factors influence children’s development, as reported in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study Fact Sheet:
Study: Children born to unmarried parents do not fare as well as children born to married parents