Extended household transitions, race/ethnicity, and early childhood cognitive outcomes

Beyond mothers’ union status transitions, other adults’ transitions into and out of the household contribute to family instability, particularly in early childhood. Using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort (N ≅ 8550), this study examines associations between extended household transitions and age 2 cognitive development. A substantial minority of toddlers experiences these transitions, and their consequences vary by household member type, entry versus exit, and race/ethnicity. Extended household transitions predict lower cognitive scores for white children, but the selection of low-socioeconomic status families into extended households explains these disparities. Grandparent transitions predict significantly higher cognitive scores for African American and Latino children than whites, and some “other adult” transitions predict higher scores for Latinos than African Americans and whites. Extended household transitions’ consequences are independent of co-occurring residential moves and partner transitions. Findings suggest that studying extended household transitions is useful for understanding children’s early development, and their consequences vary by race/ethnicity.