Remarriage, Cohabitation, and Changes in Mothering Behavior

Elizabeth Thomson

Jane Mosley

Thomas L. Hanson

Sara S. McLanahan


We use data from two waves of the National Survey of Families and Households to investigate changes in mothering behavior associated with union formation among single mothers. We consider three dimensions of mothering: (1) time and supervision; (2) discipline and decision-making; and (3) relationship quality. Our major finding is that union formation and/or the disruption of new unions have very few effects on mothering. Mothers' and children's reports sometimes produce different results, but the patterns do not suggest that children's reports are any more or less accurate than those of mothers. The most consistent effects of union change indicate that the presence of a partner reduces mothers' time with children but also inhibits mothers' harsh discipline.