Cyclical cohabitation among unmarried parents in Fragile Families

Lenna Nepomnyaschy, Julien Teitler

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24 Scopus citations


Building on past research suggesting that cohabitation is an ambiguous family form, the authors examined an understudied residential pattern among unmarried parents: cyclical cohabitation, in which parents have multiple cohabitation spells with each other. Using 9years of panel data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (N=2,084), they found that 10% of all parents with nonmarital births and nearly a quarter of those living together when the child is 9years old are cyclical cohabitors. Cyclically cohabiting mothers reported more material hardships than mothers in most other relationship patterns but also reported more father involvement with children. On all measures of child well-being except grade retention, children of cyclically cohabiting parents fared no worse than children of stably cohabiting biological parents and did not differ significantly from any other group.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1248-1265
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Marriage and Family
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


  • Child outcomes
  • Cohabiting parents
  • Fragile families and child wellbeing study
  • Living arrangements
  • Nonmarital parenting
  • Parenting


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