Complex Two-Parent Families and Adolescent Well-Being: Gendered Experiences

Sarah Halpern-Meekin, Harvard University

This paper brings together recent research on complex two-parent families with existing research on gender differences in family structure effects. We build on previous work by distinguishing between shared children and stepchildren residing in simple two-parent, blended and stepfamilies. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), we examine gender differences in family structure effects across multiple dimensions, including school achievement, delinquent behavior and depressive symptoms. We find that boys and girls respond differently to complex family structures. In particular, boys are more negatively affected in terms of their delinquency, while girls show increased risks of depression. These findings are consistent with previous work on gender differences in the effects of risk and protective factors on adolescent development, suggesting that complex family structures are an important social context in which these factors operate.

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Presented in Session 95: Family Structure and Child Well-Being