it can also be difficult to find journals willing to publish this kind of research, since journals prefer short, focused articles on narrowly defined topics. Hofferth’s work on the hurried child, for example, eventually was published in an edited volume (Hofferth, 2009).


During the discussion period, Jane Guyer pointed out that families were unstable in the earlier part of the century because of a high rate of adult mortality, which was followed by a period of relative stability before the modern period of increased instability. She then asked whether certain forms of family instability today, such as incarceration, are the equivalent of death, because an adult can suddenly disappear from a child’s life and not return. Kathleen Mullan Harris pointed out that if a single-parent household is formed as a result of parental death, child outcomes do not differ that much from two-parent families in comparison to families that undergo divorce, separation, or abandonment. She speculated that a divorce or separation may be accompanied by conflict that has a negative effect on a child. Also, the children of a deceased parent can remain in contact with the deceased parent’s family, grandparents, and extended social network, so there is not as great a loss of social capital.

Susan Brown noted that one in four black children who were born in 1990 had a parent in prison by the age of 14 (Wildeman, 2009). “For particular subpopulations, imprisonment really is a significant factor that only now is getting some attention.”

Hirokazu Yoshikawa asked whether surveys are being modified to capture diversity in family structure. Brown responded that working groups are dealing with the issues and that progress is under way. For example, the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University is compiling data on cohabitation. This will be particularly helpful in refining the terminology used to discuss family forms.

Jere Behrman asked about family structure in other parts of the world, and Kelly Raley briefly discussed work in Western Europe. There is considerable geographic and population variation in family structure even in Western Europe, she noted. Similarly, in Latin America, both overall and detailed patterns differ from other parts of the world. “We need to move toward capturing some of this variability,” she said. “Just using the umbrella term of ‘cohabitation’ is obscuring some important variations across racial and ethnic groups.”

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