Adolescent Interactions with Family and Emotions During Interactions: Variation by Family Structure

Journal of Family Psychology, 2019

This study examines how often adolescents interact with family members and how adolescents feel when spending time with parents, nonresident parents, stepparents, siblings, and extended family members. Adolescents respond to whom they spend time with, and how adolescents feel during social interactions with family has implications for adolescent relationships. Family structure remains a crucial dimension of heterogeneity in adolescent life, and family systems theory suggests family structure could differentially shape adolescent emotional functioning and social development due to differences in family-level contexts. However, less work has evaluated heterogeneity in social interactions and adolescent responses to family interactions stemming from variation in the home context. Using a large, nationally representative data sample of adolescents from the American Time Use Survey (N = 1,735), this study employs a within-group analysis to separately examine feelings of meaningfulness, happiness, sadness, and stress during social interactions for adolescents living in nuclear homes, single-parent homes, and stepparent homes. Results suggest adolescents in nuclear homes benefited from interactions with parents and were less affected by siblings and extended family members. On the other hand, adolescents in nonnuclear homes benefited from interactions with nonresident parents, older siblings, or extended family members, giving support to compensation models of family interactions. The study informs parents, clinicians, and policymakers designing interventions for adolescents, because it more precisely conveys information about which family members positively influence adolescent emotional responses.

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Recommended citation: Wikle, J. S., & Hoagland, A. (2019). Adolescent interactions with family and emotions during interactions: Variation by family structure. Journal of Family Psychology.

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