Young Adults' Roles as Partners and Parents in the Context of Family Complexity

Lawrence M. Berger, Sharon H. Bzostek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Using data from the 1979 and 1997 cohorts of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, we estimate the proportions of young men and women who will take on a variety of partner and parent roles by age 30, and describe how these estimates have changed between cohorts. We then draw on identity theory and related theoretical work to consider how the multiple family roles that young adults are likely to occupy-both over their life course and at a single point in time-may influence interfamily and intrafamily relationships. Our discussion highlights key implications of identity theory as it relates to family complexity and proposes several hypotheses for future empirical research, such as the greater likelihood of role conflict in families with greater complexity and limited resources. Our analysis suggests that families may be less likely to function-economically and socially-as cohesive units than has been the case in the past and than most existing policies assume.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-109
Number of pages23
JournalAnnals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences(all)


  • family complexity
  • family demography
  • family roles
  • family structure
  • identity theory


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