1/3 of kids live in extended family homes before 18

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About 35 percent of children in the United States have lived with a relative other than a parent or sibling by the time they turn 18, a new study shows.

Overall, about 17 percent of kids, or about 12 million, currently live in an extended family household, according to the most recent data from 2014.

“It’s important to understand it because research shows strong associations between children’s living arrangements and their psychological, behavioral, and educational outcomes,” says Christina Cross, a doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy and sociology department.

“The results allow us to better understand the potential breadth of influence of the extended family households on child well-being.”

An extended family household is when a child is living with any relative beyond the child’s parent or sibling. It could be a grandparent, aunt or uncle, or other relatives.

Cross wanted to know if extended family households are more common now than previously. When she looked at several factors that contribute to extended family households, she found:

  • Socioeconomic factors make a big difference: 47 percent of children whose parents did not finish high school spend time in an extended family, compared to 17 percent of children whose parents earned a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • The differences are substantial when researchers break it down by race: about 57 percent of black and 35 percent of Hispanic children have lived in an extended family, compared to 20 percent of white children.
  • Of the extended family households, about 24 percent lived with a grandparent, 18 percent with an aunt or uncle, and 24 percent with another relative.

“These findings are important given that nuclear family households are considered the standard and normative household in the US,” Cross says.

“A narrow focus on the nuclear family overlooks the diverse ways in which families, particularly those from minority and/or low-income backgrounds arrange family life.”

The study appears in Population Studies.

Source: University of Michigan