Document Type


Publication Date




Publication Title

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health






1780 (1-24)


A large body of literature suggests that children living with two married, biological parents on average have fewer behavior problems than those who do not. What is less clear is why this occurs. Competing theories suggest that resource deficiencies and parental selectivity play a part. We suggest that examining different contexts can help adjudicate among different theoretical explanations as to how family structure relates to child behavior problems. In this paper, we use data from the Growing Up in Australia: Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC), the UK Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), and the US Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS-K) to examine the relationship between family structure and child behavior problems. Specifically, we look at how living in several configurations of biological and social parents may relate to child behavior problems. Findings suggest both similarities and differences across the three settings, with explanations in the UK results favoring selectivity theories, US patterns suggesting that there is a unique quality to family structure that can explain outcomes, and the Australian results favoring resource theories.


© 2023 by the Authors.

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License.

Data Availability

Article states: LSAC data may be acquired through contract with the Australian Data Archive (URL (accessed 17 January 2023): MCS data may be acquired through contract with the UK Data Service (URL (accessed 17 January 2023): ECLS-K data may be acquired through contract with the National Center for Education Statistics (URL (accessed 17 January 2023):


0000-0001-9157-3493 (Pribesh)

Original Publication Citation

Stoddard-Bennett, N. A., Coburn, J., Dufur, M. J., Jarvis, J. A., & Pribesh, S. L. (2023). Family structure and child behavior problems in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 20(3), 1-24, Article 1780.