Is maternal marriage beneficial for low-income adolescents?

Heather J. Bachman, Rebekah Levine Coley, P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The present study investigated the association of mothers' marriage and changes in young adolescents' cognitive and socioemotional development and changes in family processes. Analyses employed longitudinal data from the Three-City Study to track maternal partnerships for 860 low-income adolescents (10-14 years-old in Wave 1) across a 16 month period. No short-term benefits or risks emerged for youth when mothers entered marriage, with few changes in family or maternal functioning linked with marriage formation as well. In contrast, adolescents in stably married families experienced improved academic, behavioral, and psychological well-being compared to youth in stable cohabiting or single-parent families. Stable marriage was similarly linked to improvements across multiple domains of home and mothers' functioning. These patterns were not moderated by the male partner's identity (biological father or stepfather). Results support the benefits of stable marriage on youth development, but suggest that policies supporting movements into new marriages may not result in improved adolescent or family functioning, at least in the short term.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-171
Number of pages19
JournalApplied Developmental Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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