Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. William R. Avison


With the proliferation of different family forms in many western countries over the last few decades, research investigating the influence of family structure on children’s socioeconomic status attainment has expanded dramatically, especially in the United States. The purpose of this study was to estimate the relative influence of family structure, maternal resources and family mental health on predicting children’s educational, occupational, and income attainment in young adulthood.

Data for this study were derived from a case-comparison, three-wave panel study of single-parent and two-parent families living in London, Ontario, with interviews conducted in 1993 (wave 1), 1994 (wave 2), and between 2005 and 2008 (wave 3). The sample size at wave one includes 518 single mothers and 502 married mothers. By wave 3, the children of these mothers were 15 to 33 years of age. The data at the third wave included re-interviews with 349 out of 518 (67.4%) of the original sample of single parents, and 430 out of 502 (85.7%) of the original sample of married mothers. Children’s socioeconomic attainment was determined by assessment of post-secondary education credentials, personal and household income and their longest and most recent job held. A latent class cluster analysis was used to determine distinct groups of mothers who shared similar clusters of family structure. Logistic regression and multiple regression models were then used to predict children’s socioeconomic outcomes.

There were virtually no differences in status attainment by family structure. The one exception was that children raised in temporally stable single-parent families, and those whose mothers transitioned from a single-parent family to a two-parent family had higher socioeconomic status occupations for their longest job held than did children raised in temporally stable two-parent families. Maternal education was positively related to the likelihood that children would graduate from college/university, and children’s education mediated the influence of maternal education on children’s most recent job held. Children’s mental health problems mediate the relationship between maternal depression and children’s educational attainment.

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