In this study, A/prof Cavanagh explores the associations between concurrent economic volatility, measured at multiple levels, and family building sequences that capture union and fertility statuses from ages 18 to 26. Using a sample drawn from the NLSY79-YA plus restricted-use Geocode data, we identify six family building sequences and regress them on coefficients of variation for family income-to-needs and community unemployment, and exposure to the Great Recession. More family level volatility was associated with a greater likelihood of being in the single with children and cohabiting with children sequences. More community unemployment volatility was associated with lower likelihood of being in the cohabiting with children or married with children sequences and exposure to the Great Recession was associated with a lower likelihood of being in the married with children sequence.

A/prof Cavanagh’s research is grounded in family demography and social psychology and investigates how broader economic and cultural changes seep into intimate relationships in ways that shape child and adult well-being.  In her research, she mainly explores children’s experiences with their parents’ partner instability and the transition into adulthood amidst social change. This research program is organized with the life course paradigm, which views human development as the dynamic product of structural inequalities, interpersonal processes, and personal agency. Thus, she is particularly interested in culturally loaded transitions like divorce or online dating and the socioemotional processes they set in motion, because they mark important changes in how individuals define themselves and establish social, emotional, and economic connections with others. Moreover, these events carry weight as proxies for the larger economic and cultural climate in which social life unfolds.


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