Family structure, parent sex and children’s emotional well-being

Jani Turunen, Stockholm University

This paper focuses on gender differences in emotional well-being of adolescents in five different family settings; original two-parent families, single mother-, single father-, mother/stepfather- and father stepmother families. It analyzes two main mediators; economic deprivation and parental socialization. The analysis is based on unusually rich data from the child supplements of the Swedish Level of Living study (LNU) from 2000 and the Surveys of Living Conditions (ULF) from 2001, 2002 and 2003. The results show significantly lower well-being of children in single mother and stepfamilies. These associations are mainly mediated through economic deprivation in single mother families and through parental socialization in stepfamilies. Controlling for both economy and parenting, we find lower well-being levels for boys and girls aged 16-18 years in single mother families and for boys aged 13-15 and girls below age 16 in stepfamily setting compared to their peers in early adolescence in original 2-parent families. The results indicate clear age and gender differences in psychosomatic wellbeing as we see lower well-being levels in mother-stepfather families and a negative age gradient for girls, and negative association for boys in single mother families but no differences by age.

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Presented in Session 19: Step families