Using the first (1995) and third (2001–2002) waves of the Add Health survey, we examine women's family transitions up to age 24. Only a third of all women marry, and a fifth of those marriages dissolve before age 24. Three out of eight women have a first birth, with a substantial majority of those births outside of marriage: 66% for whites, 96% for blacks, and 72% for Mexican Americans. Cohabitation is the predominant union form; 59% of women cohabit at least once by age 24. Most cohabitations are short lived, with approximately one in five resulting in a marriage. We summarize the family and relationship experience of women up to age 24 in terms of four categories, each accounting for roughly a quarter of all women. Category 1 has the women who remain single nonparents. Category 2 has the early marriers, women whose marriage is not preceded by a first birth. Category 3 has those who become single parents. Category 4 has the women who cohabit at least once, but who do not marry or have a birth by age 24. The strictly ordered transitions of the 1950s are long gone and have been replaced by a variety of paths to adulthood.


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pp. 807-820
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2010
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