Do Children Of Divorced Families Have Lower Wellbeing?

The high and increasing rates of divorce, non-marital birth as well as single parenting families are indicators of lower psychological and economic wellbeing in children and youth. Therefore, parent's and other family member's role and influences in children’s lives are essential.

Compared to children in stepfamilies and single-parent households, children living with two biological parents have higher levels of well-being. However, non-traditional families can still be protective of children’s well-being. The quality or closeness of parent-child relationships is strongly connected to the child's wellbeing. Therefore, the extent to which children feel they belong to the family is associated with child well-being.


Family belonging encompasses feelings of inclusion within one’s family; including feelings of being paid attention to, understood, and having fun together. Feelings of family belonging are conceptually distinct from the quality of an individual’s relationships with each family member. For example, both relationship quality and family connectedness are associated with less emotional distress and a lower likelihood of marijuana use among adolescents.

King et al. 2019, examined the relationships between parent-child closeness, adolescent perceptions of family belonging, and adolescent well-being for adolescents living in five common family structures. The structures were two-biological-parent families, married mother-stepfather families, married father-stepmother families, single-mother families, and single-father families.

It was supported the idea that parent-child closeness and family belonging are not the same constructs. However, they are significantly associated with each other. Family belonging is found to an important mediator of the association between parent-child closeness and adolescent well-being.


Higher levels of both family belonging and well-being were found in teenagers living with two biological parents, than in their counterparts who resided in married stepfamilies or with single parents. Adolescents living with single fathers reported lower levels of wellbeing and were followed by those living with married biological fathers and stepmother. The lower wellbeing in married biological fathers and stepmothers families can be explained by the idea that resident stepmothers are more likely than resident stepfathers to bring their own biological children into new stepfamilies; thereby, increasing the complexity of family relationships within households.


As a result, it is suggested that parent-child relationship quality and family belonging are independently associated with adolescent well-being, and that family belonging is a potentially important protective factor for adolescents.

Source: Parent-Adolescent Closeness, Family Belonging, and Adolescent Well-Being Across Family Structures
King et al.
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