A vast amount of literature has documented negative associations between family instability and child development, with the largest associations being in the socioemotional (behavioral) domain. Yet, prior work has paid limited attention to differentiating the role of the number, types, and sequencing of family transitions that children experience, as well as to understanding potential heterogeneity in these associations by family structure at birth. We use data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study and hierarchical linear models to examine associations of family structure states and transitions with children’s socioemotional development during the first nine years of life. We pay close attention to the type and number of family structure transitions experienced and examine whether associations differ depending on family structure at birth. For children born to cohabiting or noncoresident parents, we find little evidence that subsequent family structure experiences are associated with socioemotional development. For children born to married parents, we find associations between family instability and poorer socioemotional development. However, this largely reflects the influence of parental breakup; we find little evidence that socioemotional trajectories differ for children with various family structure experiences subsequent to their parents’ breakup.

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