The Impact of Caring Adults in Families
- Parents and family are the most important influence in every child’s life, providing a foundation of love and support.
- Teens who have involved and satisfying relationships with their parents are more likely to do well in school, be academically motivated and engaged, have better social skills, and have lower rates of risky behavior than their peers.
- Teens who believed that their parents cared about and supported them were less likely to be exposed to weapon violence or to commit violence with a weapon.
- Youth who have positive relationships with their parents, meaning they perceive their parents as caring, value their parent’s opinions about serious decisions, feel that they can talk to their parents about problems, are less likely to use alcohol or drugs, attempt suicide, have low self-esteem, or use unhealthy strategies to control their weight.
- Teens whose parents demonstrate positive behaviors on a number of fronts are more likely to engage in those positive behaviors themselves. For example, teens of parents who are highly involved in community activities are themselves more likely to be involved in community activities such as leadership roles, sports, or other extra-curricular or community service activities.
- Parents who know about their children’s activities, friends, and behaviors, and monitor them in age-appropriate ways, have teens with lower rates of risky physical and sexual behaviors, as well as lower rates of drug, alcohol, and tobacco use than their peers. Teens who perceive that their parents have this monitoring role are more likely to do well academically and socially.
- Research has shown that father involvement and support is also linked with more positive outcomes for children even after taking into account the support children receive from mothers.
Key Statistics on Youth and Families
- Children who grow up in households with their married mother and father do better on a wide range of economic, social, educational, and emotional measures than do children in other kinds of family arrangements.
- Children raised in married-parent homes are less likely to experience mental health, behavioral, or health problems, achieve higher levels of education, and are less likely to become teen parents.
- The percentage of children younger than 18 living with two married parents has remained stable at approximately 68% between 1996 and 2004, after a 26-year period of decline starting in 1970, when 85% of children lived with two married parents.
- Committed and responsible fathering during infancy and early childhood contributes to the development of emotional security, curiosity, and math and verbal skills.
- The percentage of children who grow up in single-parent homes has increased dramatically over the past four decades. In 1960, only 9% of children lived in single-parent families; by 2005, that number had increased to 28%.
- The percentage of babies born out-of-wedlock has increased more than sixfold since 1960. More than a third of all births, and more than two-thirds of all births to African American parents in 2004 were out-of-wedlock
- An analysis of 67 studies indicated that, compared to children who have experienced a divorce, children who live with their married parents have significantly better academic achievement, psychological and emotional adjustment, self-concept, social relations, and lower levels of misconduct such as delinquency or aggression.
- Children living in households headed by unmarried women were more likely to be poor—42% compared to 9% of children living with two married parents. There are large disparities in poverty rates by children’s race and ethnicity.
- Over 500,000 children and adolescents live in foster care. In 2003, nearly half (48%) of all children in foster care were adolescents ages 11 to 18 years, and an additional 2% were at least 19 years. Youth who age out of the foster care system often have multiple challenges: 38% have mental health challenges, 50% have used an illicit drug, and 25% are already involved with the judicial system. In addition, only 54% of youth have graduated from high school up to four years following discharge from foster care. In 2003, 18% of children who exited foster care were adopted, the vast majority of whom (79%) were ages 10 and under.
- In 2000, there were an estimated 19 million new cases of (sexually transmitted diseases (STD) among Americans. Approximately half of all new STD infections occur in teens and young adults (ages 15-24) each year.
Reprinted with the permission of Helping America's Youth.
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