- The Future of Children -: The Role of Selection
A common challenge in research in this area is that parents who are single or cohabiting may have attributes (both observed and unobserved) that differ from those of married parents and that also foster adverse child and adolescent outcomes. Men who choose to cohabit, for example, may not have the same family values that men who choose to marry do. As a consequence of such attributes, the negative "effects" being ascribed to single parenthood and cohabitation may be explained by the pre-existing attributes of members of these families, rather than reflecting an effect of the family type. Although some of these differing attributes can be controlled for using survey data on characteristics such as age and education, other differences may be harder to measure even in a detailed study such as FFCWS. A parental characteristic such as a lack of strong family values is hard to observe in survey data but it may be at work within the family system, simultaneously influencing both the structure of the family and child well-being.