FAMILY STRUCTURE, CLOSENESS TO RESIDENTIAL AND NONRESIDENTIAL PARENTS, AND PSYCHOLOGICAL DISTRESS IN EARLY AND MIDDLE ADOLESCENCE

Authors


*Christina Falci, Department of Sociology, 909 Social Sciences Tower, 267 19th Avenue, South Minneapolis, MN 55455; e-mail: falc0018@umn.edu

Abstract

American adolescents currently live in a variety of different family structures, with the vast majority of adolescents living in intact, blended, divorced, and never-married families. Previous research shows that family structure correlates both with the quality of parent–adolescent relationships and adolescent psychological distress. The quality of parent–adolescent relationships also correlates with adolescent distress. This research hypothesizes that the observed differences in adolescent distress across family structure might result from differences in the quality of parent–adolescent relationships across family structure. Analyses, using data on 1,443 youth in early and middle adolescence from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY), indicate that when the variations in both the quality of parent–adolescent relationships and background characteristics across family structure are controlled, the association between family structure and adolescent psychological distress is significantly reduced. Further analyses revealed that the quality of residential parent–adolescent relationships explained the most variation in adolescent psychological distress. The quality of relationships with nonresidential fathers only had a significant association with adolescent psychological distress for adolescents in blended families.

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