Family Transitions and Adolescents' Depression

Wei Zeng, Arizona State University
Scott T. Yabiku, Arizona State University

This study examines the link between family transitions and adolescents’ depression. Using data from the first two waves of the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health, we employ a comprehensive examination of the role of family changes to inspect how various concepts in existing sociological theories—socialization, social control and family instability theory—explain the relationship between family experiences and adolescents’ depression. We also explore the mechanisms through which family transitions affect adolescents’ depression. Results from ordered logit analysis are consistent with family instability theory. Recent family transitions have significantly detrimental effect on adolescent’s psychological well-being. The change and the number of changes in family, rather than the type of family structure, predominate in the strength of association with adolescents' depression. Socioeconomic status and family processes, such as parent-child closeness and parental control, partially account for the higher level of depression exhibited by adolescents who recently experienced a structural transition in family.

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Presented in Poster Session 3: Children and Youth, Adolescence, Parenting, Transition to Adulthood, Life Course