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Family Instability and Children’s Friendships and Social Competencies in Elementary School
Unformatted Document Text:  Family Instability and Children’s Friendships and Social Competencies in Elementary School Abstract This study investigated the association between family instability, its timing, and children’s peer relationships and social competencies during elementary school. In a sample (n = 1,112) drawn from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, we found that nearly 40 percent of sample members experienced at least one family transition between birth and the end of 4 th grade. About 15 percent experienced instability in early childhood only, another 11 percent experienced instability during the elementary school years only, and about 12 percent experienced change throughout both developmental stages. Next we considered whether it was cumulative family instability or its timing (early only, later only, or continuous change) that best predicted children’s friendships and social competencies in 5 th grade. Overall, children who experienced instability had lower teacher reports of peer competency and popularity and higher reports of externalizing behaviors in the classroom. These children also reported more peer loneliness. In comparisons between models estimating the cumulative effect and its timing, it appears that family instability experienced in early childhood is especially problematic for young people. 2

Authors: Cavanagh, Shannon. and Huston, Aletha.
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Family Instability and Children’s Friendships and Social Competencies in Elementary School
Abstract
This study investigated the association between family instability, its timing, and
children’s peer relationships and social competencies during elementary school. In a sample (n =
1,112) drawn from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, we found
that nearly 40 percent of sample members experienced at least one family transition between
birth and the end of 4
th
grade. About 15 percent experienced instability in early childhood only,
another 11 percent experienced instability during the elementary school years only, and about 12
percent experienced change throughout both developmental stages. Next we considered whether
it was cumulative family instability or its timing (early only, later only, or continuous change)
that best predicted children’s friendships and social competencies in 5
th
grade. Overall, children
who experienced instability had lower teacher reports of peer competency and popularity and
higher reports of externalizing behaviors in the classroom. These children also reported more
peer loneliness. In comparisons between models estimating the cumulative effect and its timing,
it appears that family instability experienced in early childhood is especially problematic for
young people.
2


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