The proposed research will explore the long-term mental health and developmental effects of parental conflict and marital disruption on youth as they move into adulthood. The study will make use of data from the National Survey of Children, a nationally representative study with longitudinal data on a sample of 1,154 youth aged 17-22 in 1987. Dependent variables include indexes of behavior problems. depression, delinquency, and life satisfaction, as well as indicators of substance abuse, sexual risk-taking, adolescent childbearing, school dropout, employment difficulties, receipt of psychological help, and involvement with the criminal justice system. Hypotheses derived from four different theoretical perspectives will be tested, namely: a developmental vulnerability perspective; a stress-and-coping viewpoint; a framework that emphasizes the importance of the youth's relationships with each parent; and a viewpoint that stresses the loss of environmental supports and resources that family disruption often entails. Age-at-divorce and age-at-remarriage relationships will be explored in detail to pinpoint periods of vulnerability with as much precision as the sample will allow. Hypotheses will be tested by means of a series of regression equations and path models that predict to indicators of development and well-being from parents, marital history, differing sets of mediating variables, and control variables, including parent education and youth's age, vocabulary score, sex, and race. Differential effects by sex and race will be tested by running separate regressions for sex and race subgroups, and by introducing appropriate interaction terms in regressions with combined samples. The explanatory power of the four frameworks will be compared by examining the total variance accounted for in regressions based on each framework, as well as by combining elements from different frameworks in stepwise regressions to examine the incremental contribution of each to the overall prediction of mental health in young adulthood.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
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Life Course and Prevention Research Review Committee (LCR)
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Child Trends, Inc.
United States
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