From Unwed Motherhood to Multi-partner Fertility Unions: The Role of Maternal Resources and Genetic Sensitivities in Mothers' Romantic Relationship Transitions

Yi Shi, Fordham University

Abstract

In response to the dramatic increase of nonmarital childbirth over past few decades, the Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study (FFCWS) conducted a longitudinal research among nearly 5000 children, with three-fourths born to unwed parents. Literature on FFCWS shows negative impacts of mothers’ relationship transitions on parenting and child outcome, yet research has not systematically investigated factors associated with different types of relationship transitions and mothers’ relationship instability. Based on 2670 FFCWS mothers’ survey and genetic data, the current study first examined a total of six types of relationship transition (e.g., married to divorce, cohabiting to break-up, cohabiting to marriage) using survival analysis and identified five latent groups of mothers with unique transition trajectories (i.e., married mothers, cohabiting with the father, dating new partners, cohabiting with new partners, single mothers) using latent transition analysis. Results showed that married mothers had the most stable relationship with the father. Mothers’ reunion with the father is most likely to occur within 24 months after a previous break-up, and the probability of dating and cohabiting with a new partner steadily increases thereafter. This study then investigated whether maternal resources, genetic sensitivities, interaction between the two, and covariates helped explain mothers’ relationship transition and latent group memberships. Results showed significant effects of education, financial support from work, friends, family, or governmental programs, 5-HTTLPR, mothers’ age, broken family background, and ethnicity. Controlling for all other predictors, mothers with higher education background were more likely to stay with the father and have less frequent relationship transitions. Mothers with financial support were more likely to leave the father and have more frequent relationship transitions. Younger mothers, mothers with broken family background, and Black mothers were associated with relationship instabilities. Some preliminary evidence also suggested that mothers with sensitive genotype (SS) on 5-HTTLPR were more likely to stay with the father and less likely to date someone else. Findings from this study provide new insights on the role of genetic sensitivities in relationship transitions, and have important implications on future social and governmental programs in assisting this vulnerable population with their relationship transitions after childbirth. ^

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Psychology

Recommended Citation

Shi, Yi, "From Unwed Motherhood to Multi-partner Fertility Unions: The Role of Maternal Resources and Genetic Sensitivities in Mothers' Romantic Relationship Transitions" (2016). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10125236.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI10125236

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