Divorce and Teens: It Takes a Village

Schools, neighbors and peers can help, study shows

THURSDAY, Nov. 21, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Support from friends, neighbors and schools can be just as important as parental support for teenagers coping with the effects of their parents' divorce and possible remarriage, says new research.

The Washington State University study, published in the November issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family, shows that families raise their children with the help of other support systems and that outside help can buffer teenagers from family turmoil.

The researchers examined 2,011 adolescents in grades 7, 9, and 11 from intact, blended and divorced single-parent families.

They looked at measures that affected the adolescents, such as low parental support, low parental monitoring, peer support, school attachment and neighbor support.

The adolescents were asked about their alcohol and tobacco use, risk-taking behaviors, depression, sadness, suicidal thoughts and low self-esteem.

The study found parental support and monitoring helped decrease the adolescents' damaging behavior and negative thoughts. However, the study also shows that attachment to school lowered the risk of destructive behaviors and was the strongest non-family factor in predicting adolescent mental well-being.

Support from parents was less effective in reducing depressed feelings for adolescents in divorced single-parent families than for teens in intact families. The study also found that peer support acted as a buffer against low parental support of teens in divorced single-parent families.

The researchers, in a prepared statement, say they hope the study can assist family and school counselors helping teens who face family problems. The study shows that teens experiencing family parental troubles need to have broad social networks that extend beyond their parents.

More information

Ohio State University has more about the effects of divorce on children.

SOURCE: National Council on Family Relations, news release, November 2002
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