Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Family Time Activities and Adolescents' Emotional Well-Being

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Family Time Activities and Adolescents' Emotional Well-Being

Article excerpt

The literature is divided on the issue of what matters for adolescents' well-being, with one approach focusing on quality and the other on routine family time. Using the experience sampling method, a unique form of time diary, and survey data drawn from the 500 Family Study (N = 237 adolescents with 8,122 observations), this study examined the association between family time and adolescents' emotional well-being as a function of the type of activities family members engaged in during their time together. Hierarchical linear model analyses revealed that eating meals together was beneficial to adolescents' emotional well-being, especially when fathers were present. Family leisure was also beneficial to teens' well-being. By contrast, productive family time (e.g., homework) was associated with lower emotional well-being, as was maintenance family time (e.g., household chores), but only when adolescents engaged in it with both parents.

Key Words: adolescent outcomes, family leisure, family rituals, family time, multilevel models.

Scholars and policymakers interested in work - life balance frequently lament that families do not spend enough time together. Although research indicates that children spend more time with their parents - and in particular, their fathers - today than three decades ago (Bianchi, Robinson, & Milkie, 2006), the concern over the lack of family time reflects a prevalent feeling in contemporary society that getting together has become a major challenge for many families because both parents and children are extremely busy (Bianchi et al.; Lareau, 2003; Wight, Price, Bianchi, & Hunt, 2009). The perception that families in which both parents are employed have scant time is troubling, because family time is considered beneficial to family functioning and individuals' well-being. Joint activities help forge a sense of togetherness that is crucial for child development by enhancing relationships and facilitating communication between family members (Bronfenbrenner, 1979). For adolescents, family time can also be an important ' 'respite from the frenzied world of peers and the demands of school' ' (Larson & Richards, 1994, p. 99).

Scholars have argued, however, that what matters for well-being it is not merely the sheer amount of time that families spend together but rather the kind of activities they engage in when together (Crouter, Head, McHaIe, & Tucker, 2004; Larson & Richards, 1994), with one approach focusing on routine and the other on the quality of family time (Snyder, 2007). Using data from the experience sampling method (ESM), a unique form of time diary collected directly from the adolescents in the 500 Family Study (see Hoogstra, 2005), this study provides insights into this debate by examining the association between family time and adolescents' well-being as a function of the type of activities family members engage in during their time together. The ESM has two major advantages. First, it includes contextual information that can be used to calculate accurate estimates of family time. Second, it provides detailed data about teens' activities and affective states at the time of their occurrence. Thus, by decomposing family time into distinct types of activities and examining their association with emotional well-being, this study extends previous research and sheds new light on the issue of what adolescents do and how they feel when they spend time with their parents. Specifically, this study addressed the following five questions: (a) How frequently do adolescents spend time with their parents? (b) What kind of activities do adolescents and parents engage in when they are together? (c)What contextual and demographic characteristics are related to family time? (d) What is the association between family time and adolescents' emotional well-being? and (e) How does this association vary by type of activity?

BACKGROUND

Family Time in Research on Adolescents ' Time Use

The concern over the scarcity of family time is linked to growing scholarly interest in how adolescents spend their time. …

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