Academic journal article Family Relations

Effects of Family Structure, Family Process, and Father Involvement on Psychosocial Outcomes among African American Adolescents

Academic journal article Family Relations

Effects of Family Structure, Family Process, and Father Involvement on Psychosocial Outcomes among African American Adolescents

Article excerpt

Effects of Family Structure, Family Process, and Father Involvement on Psychosocial Outcomes Among African American Adolescents*

Deborah A. Salem,** Marc A. Zimmerman, and Paul C. Notaro

Psychosocial outcomes and family processes were compared across five family constellations among 634 African American adolescents. The only significant family structure effect-higher marijuana use among youths living with their mothers and extended family-disappeared when age was entered as a covariate. Family process and youths ' relationships with their fathers were correlated with psychosocial outcomes. The effects of father involvement on psychosocial outcomes were mediated by family process. Finally, many fathers who did not live with their children were found to be present in their lives. These results challenge the assumptions that nonresident fathers are absent from their children's lives, and that living with single mothers adversely affects psychosocial development of African American youths.

The rising number of children who now live in singlemother households has led to considerable interest in the effects of family structure on adolescent development. Living with a single mother has been associated with children's delinquency (Dornbusch et al., 1985; Ensminger, Kellum, & Rubin, 1983; Sampson, 1987; Steinberg, 1987), alcohol and substance use (Brook, Whiteman, & Gordon, 1985; Castro, Maddahian, Newcomb, & Bentler, 1987; Covey & Tam 1990; Murray, Roche, Goldman, & Whitbeck, 1988; Stern, Northman, & Van Slyck, 1984), lower self-esteem (Harper & Ryder, 1986; Parish, 1991; Parish & Taylor, 1979), psychiatric problems (Barbarin & Soler, 1993), earlier initiation of sexual intercourse (Newcomer & Udry, 1987) and leaving school before graduation (Zimilies & Lee, 1991).

The large number of single-mother households within the African American community has been a particular focus of negative attention (Auletta, 1982; Coontz, 1992; Moynihan, 1965). A growing number of researchers suggest, however, that living in a single-mother family may have very different meanings for White and African American youths. Greater acceptance of singlemother families (Wilson & Tolson, 1988), extended family support (Chatters, Taylor, & Jayakody, 1994; Taylor, Chatters, Tucker, & Lewis, 1990), and involvement of nonresident fathers (Mott, 1990; Zimmerman, Salem, & Maton, 1995) within the African American community may significantly alter the experience of living in a single-mother household for African American youths as compared to White youths.

Much of the research which has found detrimental effects of living with a single mother has been conducted with middleclass, White samples (Barber & Eccles, 1992). Research on the role of family structure for African American adolescent development has been more limited, and the results have been equivocal. Some researchers have found family structure effects for African American youths. Dornbusch et al. (1985) found that living in a single-parent home had a detrimental impact regardless of race. Cooper, Pierce, and Tidwell (1995) also concluded that living in a single-parent or stepparent family was a risk factor for increased drug and alcohol use for both African American and White youths. McLanahan (1985) found high-school drop-out to be associated with fathers' absence for African American youths. Jemmott and Jemmott (1992), in a study of African American adolescent males, demonstrated that while family structure was not related to the frequency of sexual intercourse or the number of sexual partners, it was related to condom use and chances of fathering a child. Flewelling and Bauman (1990) studied family structure effects among early adolescents. They found that family structure was related to substance use and sexual intercourse for both Whites and nonWhites, but nonWhites were less affected by family structure than Whites. …

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