Different Forms of Family Instability: Key Mechanisms Linking Family Strengthening Interventions, Family Functioning and Child Wellbeing
Family instability is a significant risk factor for children’s cognitive, behavioral and emotional development, often because it undermines effective parenting practices and parental functioning. Economically disadvantaged families are particularly likely to experience family instability. Thus, family instability represents an important pathway through which economic disadvantage compromises child development. Recent policy and intervention efforts have been targeted at increasing family stability, often defined as parental marital relationship stability. However, this approach to strengthening families ignores other forms of family instability that likely undermine attempts to foster positive family functioning.
The goal of this secondary data analysis is to examine how participation in the Building Strong Families (BSF) program, a federally funded relationship intervention program, caused families to experience reductions in three different forms of family instability (i.e., financial, family structure, romantic relationship quality), that in turn bolstered child development via increased father involvement and higher quality coparenting. By examining multiple forms of family instability as intervention pathways, we will be able to inform future intervention work aimed at strengthening relationships and wellbeing among economically disadvantaged families across the transition to parenthood.