Race and ethnic differences in step- versus biological parent support to adult children



This brief report examines differences in step- versus biological family support between White, Black, and Hispanic families in the United States.


The increasing share of stepfamilies reflects a potential shift in family relationships. Although research finds that stepfamilies are generally less likely to engage in instrumental support than biological families, recent work suggests that the relationship between family structure and family behaviors may vary across racial/ethnic groups.


Using data from the 2015 to 2017 Add Health Parent Study, this report examines racial/ethnic differences in step- versus biological family support between parents and adult children. Specifically, parents’ likelihood of and hours of providing instrumental support to adult children are assessed.


Findings from this report indicate that for Black and White families, stepfamilies are less likely to provide instrumental support to their adult children than biological families. Among Hispanic families, however, stepfamilies are not more or less likely to provide support than biological families. When hours of instrumental support are examined, White stepfamilies provide fewer hours of support than biological families, whereas no difference is found for Black or Hispanic families.


Findings from this study contribute to broader work that calls for a more nuanced understanding of the differential effects of family structure across social groups. Future research should consider applying within-race/ethnicity analyses when examining the association between family structure and intergenerational support.

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