The Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study

The Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study is following a nationally representative cohort of nearly 5,000 children born in large U.S. cities between 1998 and 2000. The study includes a large oversample of children born to unmarried parents, which makes it ideal for studying low-income and minority families. We refer to unmarried parents and their children as "fragile families" to underscore that they are families and that they are at greater risk of breaking up and living in poverty than more traditional families.

The study was designed to address four questions of great interest to researchers and policy makers: (1) What are the conditions and capabilities of unmarried parents, especially fathers? (2) What is the nature of the relationship between unmarried parents? (3) How do children born into these families fare? (4) What role do policies play in the lives of parents and children?

The study consists of interviews with both mothers and fathers at the birth of their child and again when children are ages one, three, five, and nine. In-home assessments of children and their home environments are conducted when children are ages three, five, and nine. The parent interviews include information on attitudes, relationships, parenting behavior, demographic characteristics, health (mental and physical), economic and employment status, neighborhood characteristics, and program participation. In-home interviews collect information on children’s cognitive and emotional development, health, and home environment. Several collaborative studies provide additional information on parents’ medical, employment, and incarceration histories; religion; child care; early childhood education; and genetic data at year nine. These studies feature a variety of research methods, including administrative records, in-depth qualitative interviews, and surveys. Data collection for a fifteen-year follow-up (sixth wave) began in February 2014. It includes a combined primary caregiver and core mother interview, as well as an interview and in-home assessment with the focal child. The first five waves of data are now available for public use. Research findings based on data from the Fragile Families Study are available in the CRCW-FF Publications Collection.

The Fragile Families Study is funded through grants from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD), and a consortium of private foundations and other government agencies.

The study contributes to the teaching/training mission of CRCW by hosting bimonthly working group seminars for faculty and students at Princeton and Columbia University. The study also sponsors summer workshops at Columbia University. Also, Princeton undergraduates and graduate students use these data for their senior theses and dissertations under the guidance of CRCW faculty.

The Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study contributes to the policy mission of CRCW by publishing research briefs that translate working papers into information that is useful to policymakers and practitioners. The study also provides helpful information to foundations, government agencies, and non-profit organizations working to improve the conditions of families across the country. See, for example, Children’s Futures and Fragile Families of Urban Essex .

To receive our bimonthly newsletter, which highlights recent publications and news from the Fragile Families Study, you can sign up for the Fragile Families' listserv. When you click on the listserv link, you will be taken to a sign-up page. On this page, fill in your name and e-mail address and click on "Join FF News" at the bottom left of the page.

The Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study is a joint effort by Princeton University’s Center for Research on Child Wellbeing (CRCW) and the Center for Health and Wellbeing, the Columbia Population Research Center, and the National Center for Children and Families (NCCF) at Columbia University

Princeton University