When families make the news, it is often for negative reasons such as violence or abuse. However, families are critical to the positive development of children and youth, as well as to problems that may affect development. A new Child Trends brief, Exploring The Links Between Family Strengths and Adolescent Outcomes, finds that family strengths are associated with significantly better outcomes for adolescents in both lower-income and higher-income families. Family strengths include emotional/subjective strengths (such as close and caring parents); behavioral/concrete strengths (for example, parental monitoring and parent involvement); and passive parenting strengths (for instance, positive parental role modeling).

Among the findings:

  1.  Adolescents who reported having close and caring parents are significantly more likely to perform well in school. Higher parental monitoring and parent involvement are also associated with better school performance.
      These patterns were found in both lower- and higher-income families.
  2. Adolescents in families with higher parental monitoring are more likely to avoid risky behaviors. Also, risky behaviors are significantly lower when parents are more close and caring and more involved.
      These patterns were found for both lower- and higher-income families.

Focusing on family strengths identifies what we value and seek in families. It also clarifies the behaviors and supports families can provide — building close and caring relationships, monitoring, being involved, and setting a good example. Moreover, it provides insights for funders, policymakers and service providers on ways that the strengths of families can be leveraged to improve services and, subsequently, outcomes for youth.

This brief is based on data for adolescents ages 12-17 from the 2005 Every Child Every Promise Study conducted by America’s Promise Alliance.