Teenage mental health and family life
From an article by Marriage Foundation
The growing teenage mental health crisis is often presented as a recent problem and blamed on factors over which we have little control e.g. too much social media.
The Marriage Foundation reckon the issues are much closer to home, saying it should be fairly self-evident that the main way we cope with life depends in large part on the security we get from what is going on at home.
They published a study in 2017 which showed that 27 per cent of both boys and girls exhibit high or very high levels of mental health problems, whether conduct, emotional, hyperactive or peer problems and the biggest single factor was family breakdown.
Now, in August 2018, they have looked at this in more detail - more than 10,000 mothers with fourteen year olds born in the year 2000 or 2001, at families who remain intact, at the quality of the parent relationship, how happy the parents were in their relationship along the way, and whether they reported ever experiencing physical force.
Here are two key findings:
First, the relationship between parents matters. For boys, the single biggest factor above all others was whether their parents had been married from the start. That didn’t seem to matter for girls. What mattered for them was that their parents weren’t unhappy or in a low quality relationship or living with low income. In other words, so long as the situation at home was OK, girls were more likely to do OK.
Second, the relationship of a child with the opposite sex parent matters. On the face of it having a close relationship with either parent seems to benefit teens equally. But when you throw all these other factors into the mix – parent marital status, happiness, relationship quality, use of physical force, education, ethnicity – it’s closeness to mum that matters specifically for boys and closeness to dad that matters specifically for girls.
The Marriage Foundation draws further conclusions from this, including that It should be obvious that how your parents get on with each other and with you is so much more important for mental health than other given reasons such as ‘social media’ or ‘exam pressure’. Teenagers who are confident in their home life are bound to handle modern day pressures better. Those who struggle at home, or see their parents struggle, are going to find it harder.
So far as they know, this is the first study that attempts to link what teens experience from their parents with how they see their future relationship and how that affects their well-being. It also gives strong evidence that being married has a qualitatively different influence on teenage children, even compared to unmarried parents who stay together. And that is very much a choice over which couples have responsibility.
Read full article and access the report here.
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