Out of sight, out of mind? – The role of family environment in adolescent adjustment

Alice Murteira Morgado, M L Vale-Dias

Research output: Contribution to ConferencePaper

Abstract

Although many times underestimated, family still plays a crucial role in adolescence as a developmental context that can prevent risk and promote positive outcomes. Changes in society have involved an increasing number of new family arrangements, urging researchers to understand to what extent family structure and environment impacts individuals’ psychological adjustment, not only in childhood, but also in adolescence, when rapid and multiple developmental changes occur. Our paper focuses on the role of family environment and structure on internalizing and externalizing symptoms in adolescence through two hypotheses: (1) family environment predicts internalizing and externalizing symptoms in adolescence; (2) family structure impacts family environment and internalizing and externalizing symptoms. 489 individuals between 9 and 17 years old (60.5 % females) were recruited in schools in the region of Coimbra (Portugal) and asked to fill the Portuguese versions of two self-report measures for this study: Youth Self-Report, and Family Environment Scale, together with a sociodemographic questionnaire. After running regression analysis, we confirmed that family environment factors (conflict, organization and cohesion) play a significant role in internalizing and externalizing symptoms. ANOVA confirmed differences in antisocial behaviour, anxiety/depression and thought problems, but not on family environment factors, between children in traditional and non-traditional family structures. We conclude that family environment offers an important contribution to psychological adjustment and needs to be addressed in prevention/intervention programmes. Although we found significant differences between traditional and non-traditional families in some internalizing and externalizing symptoms, those differences do not seem to be related to family environment. Thus, although family structure may impact adjustment in adolescence, it is not related to the fact that non-traditional family arrangements involve poorer family environments. More research is needed in order to understand what other factors may be involved in non-traditional families’ experiences that explain higher antisocial behaviour, anxiety/depression and thought problems in adolescents.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2017
EventXVII International Congress of Association Internationale de Formation et de Recherche en Education Familiale (AIFREF): Children's Quality of Life Today - Prague, Czech Republic
Duration: 20 May 2017 → …
http://www.aifref2017prague.cz/

Conference

ConferenceXVII International Congress of Association Internationale de Formation et de Recherche en Education Familiale (AIFREF): Children's Quality of Life Today
Period20/05/17 → …
Internet address

Keywords

  • Adolescent adjustment
  • family environment
  • family structure
  • internalizing symptoms
  • externalizing symptoms

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