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April 2015Vol. 16, No. 3Family Environment and Adolescent Well-Being

Adolescence is when youth explore and further develop their identities and independence and cultivate the knowledge and skills necessary to traverse the path to adulthood. Studies indicate that the presence of healthy family settings and relationships can assist youth in this phase of development. Conversely, negative family factors can present additional challenges to an inherently tumultuous period and have long-lasting consequences that can follow youth into adulthood. A new Child Trends research brief focuses on the importance of a positive and supportive family environment in promoting adolescent well-being.

The brief builds on and provides updated findings to the 2006 publication The Family Environment and Adolescent Well-Being: Exposure to Positive and Negative Family Influences. It also explores the following five key areas of interaction between family environment and adolescent well-being: parent and adolescent closeness and communication, parental relationships, parental monitoring, eating meals together, and parental healthy behaviors. Some key findings include:

  • Parents of 65 percent of teens say they communicate well with their child about important matters. Positive and frequent parent-teen communication is associated with less drug use and better physical and mental health among teens.
  • Over 80 percent of teens with partnered parents have parents who express high levels of happiness and satisfaction in their spousal or partner relationship. Parents who have high levels of satisfaction in their partner relationships are more likely to model good parenting and partnership practices.
  • Approximately one-quarter of teens have parents who report knowing few to none of their child's friends. When parents couple frequent monitoring with positive parenting practices, teens are less likely to engage in risky behaviors.
  • Less than half of adolescents eat meals with their families at least six nights a week. Family meals are good opportunities to foster family communication, and they are associated with positive teen outcomes such as healthy eating habits and lower substance use.
  • Approximately 65 percent of parents are light drinkers; however, 10 percent of single fathers report being heavy drinkers, compared to less than 5 percent of mothers and married fathers. Parents can affect their teens' health through the modeling of healthy behaviors and the maintenance of a healthy home environment.

When available, data is presented by age, gender, ethnicity, income/poverty level, parental education, and family type (two-parent family [biological, step, or adoptive], single mother, and single father).

The November 2014 brief, The Family Environment and Adolescent Well-Being, by V. Sacks, K. Anderson Moore, A. Shaw, and P.M. Cooper, is available on the Child Trends website at (633 KB).