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Popul Trends. 2010 Winter;(142):75-89. doi: 10.1057/pt.2010.32.

Changes in family structure in early childhood in the Millennium Cohort Study.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London.


This article develops a typology of family change over the first five years of children's lives using data from the Millennium Cohort Study. It examines the changes over time of parental living arrangements and describes a range of social, economic and well-being indicators. It shows that nearly three quarters of this sample of young children have not experienced changes in family structures. The most advantaged group appears to be children living with continuously married parents, followed by those who live with cohabiting parents who marry. Children who experienced changes in family structure are a diverse group. Coupled parents who separate suffer the largest drop in income over five years. Lone parents who partner gain the most income. However, their incomes are still much lower than continuously partnered parents. This article suggests that using static or overly simplified measures of family structure hides important variations in the experiences of children.

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