Dr. McLanahan’s research interests include family demography, poverty and inequality, and social policy. Her research focuses is on the causes and consequences of non-traditional family structures. She is the author of Single Mothers and their Children: A New America Dilemma, 1986 (with Irwin Garfinkel), Growing Up with a Single Parent, 1994 (with Gary Sandefur), several edited books, and over 100 articles.

Dr. McLanahan currently directs the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a nationally-representative longitudinal birth cohort study of approximately 5,000 families, including 3,700 unmarried parents and their children. The study is designed to shed light on the health and development of low-income children, the impact of family relationships and dynamics on child wellbeing, and the impact of social policies on family relationships and child wellbeing.

Dr. McLanahan is also editor-in-chief of the Future of Children, a policy journal on children's issues produced by Princeton University and the Brookings Institution. The journal’s latest issue, “Children with Disabilities,” (Vol. 22, No. 1) is co-edited by Janet Currie and Robert Kahn. Upcoming issues include: “Literacy of American Children" (Vol. 22, No. 2) co-edited by Richard Murnane, Isabel Sawhill, and Catherine Snow (available in fall 2012), “Postsecondary Education in the U.S.,” (Vol. 23, No. 1) co-edited by Cecilia Rouse, Thomas Brock and Lisa Barrow (available in spring 2013), and “Military Children and Families,” (Vol. 23, No. 2) co-edited by Richard Lerner and Stephen Cozza (available in fall 2013).

Dr. McLanahan is currently engaged in two comparative research projects. As part of the Princeton Global Network on Immigrant Children and Youth, she is examining nativity differences in children's health and wellbeing in the US, the UK, and Australia. In a second project, she is examining the role of families in influencing children's health disparities in the US and the UK.