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Keywords:

  • adolescence;
  • attachment;
  • development/outcomes;
  • family structure;
  • gender;
  • NLSY;
  • parent-adolescent relations

Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (N = 4,190), this study examined adolescents’ reports of primary confidants. Results showed that nearly 30% of adolescents aged 16 – 18 nominated mothers as primary confidants, 25% nominated romantic partners, and 20% nominated friends. Nominating romantic partners or friends was related to increased risk-taking behaviors, supporting the attachment notion that shifting primary confidants to peers in adolescence may reflect premature autonomy from parents. Tendencies to prefer romantic partners over parents varied by gender and family structure, which were greater for those from single-father families and girls from mother-stepfather families, but less for those from single-mother families and boys from mother-stepfather families, compared with their counterparts from two-biological-parent families.