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This paper investigates the manner and extent to which family structure impacts upon the cognitive development of young Australian children. Our methodology draws on the standard household production model of Becker but also includes control variables emphasised by parental investment and good-parent theories of child development. We use data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) and from the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) in cross sectional, panel, instrumental variables and fixed-effects analyses. Our results suggest that the large negative effects initially associated with single parent families disappear when child characteristics and parental preferences for education are controlled for. On the other hand parental completion of Year 12 education, ‘warm’ parent-child interactions, a stress-free home environment and positive parental aspirations for their children are persistently strong determinants of the educational success of young children.