Context, relationship transitions and conflict: explaining outcomes for Australian youth from non-intact families

Mance, Paula; Yu, Peng
June 2010
Journal of Population Research;Jun2010, Vol. 27 Issue 2, p75
Academic Journal
in many other countries, non-traditional family types are increasing in prevalence in Australia. In 2008, over one quarter of Australian families reported a non-intact family structure; comprising over 0.8 million lone-parent families and 0.4 million stepfamilies. Prior studies consistently find poorer child outcomes associated with non-intact family type. Controlling for family characteristics decreases the negative effect; however, in most cases small but unexplained differences remain apparent. The current study examines differences in the outcomes of young adults from four family types�intact, stepfather, stepmother and never-repartnered lone-parent families�on four measures: educational attainment; being suspended from school; regular smoking; and trouble with police. The research uses information from 2,430 matched parent-youth pairs collected in a unique Australian study, the Youth in Focus Survey. This study improves our understanding of the complex interaction between family structure and adolescent well-being by exploiting the full childhood family-relationship history information available in the Survey. Although between-group variations are described, differences are predominantly due to contextual factors associated with disadvantage, more prevalent in families who separate and repartner, rather than family structure in itself. For lone-parent and stepfather families, the number of family transitions since the youth�s birth is also relevant. Parent-youth conflict explained little of the negative association between family structure and youth outcomes above the effect of contextual factors, but operated independently of family structure to affect youth outcomes. Possible reasons for unexplained differences between intact and stepmother families on some measures are discussed.


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