Discussion Paper no. 01-8


This paper examines conditions that are more likely to lead to positive or negative child outcomes in intact, female lone parent and reconstituted families. Family type is found to be more important than low income in predicting a set of behavioural, emotional and psychological difficulties. After establishing measurement equivalence across family types, multiple group analysis using structural equation modelling shows that the explanatory factors also operate differently in the various family settings. In particular, low income has a significant impact on childhood difficulties in lone parent and stepfamilies, but not in intact families. Family functioning has less impact on children’s outcomes in step-families than in intact or lone parent families, and larger family size predicts negative child outcomes only in non-intact families. These observations can be interpreted in terms of the impact of family type on the transfer of financial, human and social capital to children.