Soldier, student, or employee: Does family structure matter for post-high school careers?


Spence, Naomi; J; Henderson, Kathryn; A; Elder; Jr, Glen; & H (2008). Soldier, student, or employee: Does family structure matter for post-high school careers?. 2008 Add Health Users Conference. Bethesda, MD.


Adolescents in non intact families are more likely to join the military (Bachman et al. 2000; Elder et al. 2007; Goldscheider and Goldscheider 1998). However, research on the mechanisms through which earlier life family circumstances may lead to military service is limited. This paper seeks to understand the processes through which family structure in adolescence during adolescence influences young people in the transition to adulthood in terms of post high school occupational choices, with particular emphasis on entry into the military. We use data from Waves I and III of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) and multinomial logistic regression analyses to compare the odds of entering the military with those of entering college or the workforce. We find that living in a single parent household in adolescence is associated with increased odds of enlistment into the military relative to college. Yet this relationship is largely accounted for by variations in socioeconomic status and feelings of social isolation. Living with a stepparent or neither biological parent family more than doubles the likelihood of enlistment (relative to college). These effects are not accounted for by socioeconomic status, characteristics of parent child relationships, or feelings of social isolation. We find no differences when comparing military enlistment and post high school labor force participation. Although college enrollment certainly offers opportunities for socioeconomic advancement, military service may also provide a pathway out of disadvantage for adolescents from non intact households.


Reference Type

Conference proceeding

Book Title

2008 Add Health Users Conference


Spence, Naomi
Henderson, Kathryn
Jr, Glen

Year Published


City of Publication

Bethesda, MD

Reference ID