News Release

The Family Environment Affects Adolescent Well-Being

WASHINGTON, DCBy action and by example, parents shape the lives of children from birth through adulthood. In adolescence, the influence of friends and peers take on greater importance, but research demonstrates the continued significance of parents in shaping the behaviors and choices of teens as they face the challenges of growing up.

 

A new report, The Family Environment and Adolescent Well-being: Exposure to Positive and Negative Family Influences, by Child Trends and The National Health Information Center, highlights both the positive and negative influences on adolescent well-being.

 

Fact:

Over three-quarters of all parents report very close relationships with their adolescent children – 82 percent for parents of children ages 12 to 14 and 76 percent for parents with children ages 15 to 17.

Fact:

Yet, many 15-year-olds report difficulty talking with their parents about things that bother them. About one-third of 15-year-olds (32 percent) report difficulty talking to their mothers about things that bother them, while 42 percent of males and 53 percent of females report difficulty talking to their fathers.

Fact:

Hispanic parents are less likely than white and black parents to know who most of their adolescent’s friends are – 66 percent of Hispanic parents, 73 percent of non-Hispanic black parents, and 88 percent of non-Hispanic white parents know most of the child’s friends.

Fact:

Foreign-born adolescents are more likely than their native-born peers to eat meals with their families six to seven days a week.  Sixty-two percent of foreign-born adolescents ate family meals six to seven days a week, versus 40 percent of native-born adolescents with native-born parents.)

Fact:

Adolescents who live with two parents are somewhat more likely than those living with one parent to report that their parents know their whereabouts after school (90 percent versus 83 percent.)

Fact:

Adolescents with better-educated parents are less likely to be exposed to smoking and heavy drinking by parents. Among parents with at least a bachelor’s degree, eight percent smoked, compared with 30 percent among parents of adolescents with less than a high school degree. Eleven percent of fathers with less than a high school degree drank heavily at least once a week, compared with two percent of fathers who had at least a bachelor’s degree.

Fact:

Adolescents whose parents exercise are less likely to be sedentary themselves. Adolescents whose parents reported they had worked out heavily during the last month were more likely to exercise six to seven times a week themselves than adolescents whose parents did not report exercising – 28 percent versus 21 percent, respectively.

 

The family environment can be a strong source of support for developing adolescents, providing close relationships, strong parenting skills, good communication, and modeling positive behaviors. It can also be a problematic environment when these supports are lacking, or when negative adult behaviors like smoking and heavy drinking are present. Where adolescent health is concerned, clearly the family matters, and parents matter.

About Child Trends – Child Trends is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center serving those dedicated to creating better lives for children and youth.  This report was created in partnership with the National Adolescent Health Information Center (NAHIC).


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