Diverse early-life family trajectories and young children's mental health in the UK

Michaela Stastna*, Julia Mikolai, Nissa Finney, Katherine Lisa Keenan

*Corresponding author for this work

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Past research suggests that children from two-parent married families fare better than children from other families on many outcomes. Only fragmented evidence on diverse family trajectories in association with child mental health is available. Using multi-channel sequence analysis and data from the UK Household Longitudinal Study, we jointly capture maternal partnership trajectories and type of father co-residence between birth and age 5. We then assess the association between these family trajectories and child mental health at age 5 and 8 using random effects regression. Children whose trajectories include the entrance of a non-biological father or parental separation have the lowest levels of mental health. However, children of never partnered mothers and those who repartner with the biological father have comparable mental health to children of stably married biological parents. Thus, not all types of family complexity or instability appear to be equally detrimental to children’s mental health.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Family Issues
Early online date2 Mar 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Mar 2024


  • Family demography
  • Parent/child relations
  • Divorce/separation
  • Life course
  • Step-families


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