Recent trends in the well-being of children in the United States and their implications for public policy.
During the past 25 to 30 years, the family situations in which American children are reared have changed profoundly. Divorce is more common. More unmarried women are bearing and rearing children. Employment of mothers outside the home has become the norm rather than the exception, for mothers with young children and those with older children. This chapter appraises trends in children's well-being in the US since the 1960s. It begins by reviewing changes in the size and composition of the child population over the past 3 decades, as well as some of the more notable changes in the circumstances of children's family lives. It then examines recent trends in measures of children's well-being, including indicators of children's economic well-being, physical health, academic achievement, social behavior and attitudes, and emotional well-being. It evaluates how well the observed trends accord with "family disintegration" hypotheses and other popular theories about recent social change in the US. Finally, it discusses some of the implications of these trends for government policies on children and families.