Living with one or zero biological parents in adolescence and lifelong attainment: A focus on high school graduation


Arroyo, Julia; Zsembik, B.; & Peek, C. (2018). Living with one or zero biological parents in adolescence and lifelong attainment: A focus on high school graduation. 2018 Add Health Users Conference. Bethesda, MD.


Researchers show that living in a non-intact family during adolescence (e.g., having at least one non-resident parent) is associated with reduced educational attainment. Yet, few studies of adolescent family environments and educational attainment include adolescents who live in households with no biological parents present (e.g., those living with relatives or foster parents). To fill this gap, we conduct logistic regression analyses using Wave 1 – 5 Add Health data on high school graduation. Relative to adolescents living with two biological parents, adolescents living with no biological parents, one biological parent, or one biological parent plus parent's partner had 51%, 35%, and 31% lower odds of graduating high school. While supports and adversities related to nonresident parents and resident parent figures accounted for some of the effect, they did not explain it. Similarly, having been suspended prior to Wave 1, having repeated a grade prior to Wave 1, having a "D” letter grade at Wave 1, and having conflict with a residential or non-residential parent were each associated with, but did not explain reduced odds of high school graduation. Going forward, we plan to conduct multi-level analyses to assess whether school-level and neighborhood-level resources explain reduced odds of graduation. We will also explore additional measures of adversities prior to living in a non-intact household, and whether these better account for deleterious educational outcomes. This includes measures available in Waves I – IV as well as retrospective measures available in Wave V, Sample 1. Including a broader group of adolescents and focusing on a key turning point, this study advances knowledge on the paths by which adolescent environments promote and inhibit lifelong attainment and well-being.

Reference Type

Conference proceeding

Book Title

2018 Add Health Users Conference


Arroyo, Julia
Zsembik, B.
Peek, C.

Year Published


City of Publication

Bethesda, MD

Reference ID