Family contexts and adolescents’ emotional status

Silvia Meggiolaro, Università di Padova
Fausta Ongaro, Università di Padova

Children’s living arrangements have become increasingly diverse and complex in recent decades. The share of children residing with two biological married parents has been steadily declining and the proportions of children residing in stepfamilies or in single-parent families are not negligible, even in countries, such as Italy, which only recently are undergoing a transition from traditional to less traditional family behaviours. Research has shown consistently that growing up in some non-traditional families is, in average, associated with negative consequences for children, in particular, with decreased well-being. The present study explores the effect of family structure (presence of both biological parents, step-families, single-parent families) on different measures of adolescent’s emotional status, considering whether this effect is mediated via family resources (parental socio-economic circumstances and parental health). The data come from a national representative survey, conducted in Italy in 2005. Descriptive analyses showed that teenagers living in non-traditional families, and above all in step-families, experience lower psychological well-being, than teen living in two-biological-parent families, particularly for the mental health component. At the multivariate level, the negative effect of non-traditional families on adolescent’s psychological well-being is significant only for step-families and only for mental health, whereas living in single-parent families has not negative effect. Parental resources (in particular, health) influence adolescents’ emotional well-being, and their effects do not mediate, where present, the family structure effects.

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Presented in Session 25: Happiness, emotional status and life satisfaction