American Families: Finally, Some Good News!

Washington, DC – Contrary to many popular portrayals, American families are not all full of conflict or overwhelmed by modern life. Instead, the majority of American parents and children report strong family ties and daily routines that encourage close parent-child relationships. While problems and pressures certainly confront many families and cannot be ignored, families of all backgrounds enjoy many strengths that sustain and support them.

These findings are presented in Child Trends’ latest Research Brief, Family Strengths: Often Overlooked, But Real. Child Trends looked at several major national surveys to better understand some of the ways families are thriving. The brief looks at several indicators related to strong families: positive parental mental health; household routines; time use; communication and praise; monitoring, supervision, and involvement; and parent-child warmth and supportiveness.

From these surveys, we found several examples of family strengths, including:

  • About 80 percent of adolescents report that they enjoy spending time with their parents.
  • More than half of teens report that they turn first to a parent for help solving problems.
  • Almost three-quarters of youth report that they eat dinner with their families five or more days each week.
  • Nearly 60 percent of mothers know “almost everything” or “everything” about their adolescent’s close friends.

“While we should never dismiss or minimize the serious problems facing some families, focusing exclusively on the negative can cause us to overlook the strengths that the majority of families possess.” said Kristin A. Moore, Ph.D., president and senior scholar at Child Trends.

This brief is available online

This Research Brief summarizes a longer paper, Family Strengths (Child Trends, January 2002), prepared for the Annie E. Casey Foundation.


Child Trends, founded in 1979, is an independent, nonpartisan research center dedicated to improving the lives of children and their families by conducting research and providing science-based information to the public and decision-makers.