Family StructureTwo out of three (66%) of adolescents age 12-17 live with both parents, 24% with their mother only, 5% with their father only, and 5% with neither parent . The quality of parents' relationships makes a difference to children in many ways. A Child Trends analysis found that whether parents are married or cohabitating, parental relationship quality -- how happy parents are in the relationship -- is associated with children's behavior problems, social competence, school engagement, and depression . Among black children under age 18, only about one in three (36%) lived with both parents in 2017 .
Grandparents share responsibility for children's care. About 7% of children under 18 lived in a grandparent's home in 2017, usually with one or both parents .
ConnectednessParent-child connectedness is associated with a wide range of health indicators. Close, positive family relationships that feature open communication help young people stay healthy and avoid substance use and violent behavior [4, 5].
While parenting can be stressful, only 11% of children have parents who say they are usually or always stressed from parenting . Most parents of teens (age 12-17) feel they can share ideas and talk about things that really matter very well (63%); only 5% felt they could not communicate well . Parents of three out of four teens feel that their family can talk about and work together to resolve problems, knowing that they have strengths to draw on and can be hopeful even in difficult times .
In one large study (not nationally representative), a diverse group of middle and high school students responded to questions about their closeness and comfort with their parents :
- Boys (82%) and girls (76%) said they valued their parents' opinions over their friends' when it came to serious decisions.
- The great majority understood that their mothers cared about them (91% boys, 89% girls), and that their fathers cared as well (82% boys, 79% girls).
Adolescents join their families for a meal less often as they grow older, but do benefit when they eat regularly with their parents . Frequent family meals are associated with higher self-esteem and positive academic outcomes, as well as decreased depression, alcohol and substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, and violent behavior . Adolescents who join three or more family meals each week also have healthier eating patterns, including greater consumption of fruits, vegetables, and vitamins, and reduced likelihood of eating unhealthy foods, among other outcomes . Girls in particular are less likely to have disordered eating patterns .
About one in three adolescents age 12-17 eat with their families every day, and an additional 31% eat with their families on most days . Hispanic children are more likely to eat every day with their families than are white or black youth. Adolescents with family income below the poverty line are more likely to have near-daily family meals than are adolescents with higher incomes.
Fathers' InvolvementA National Center for Health Statistics analysis of the 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth looked closely at several measures of fathers' involvement with their children .
Among fathers and children who lived apart:
- 16% of fathers talked with their school-aged child every day about things that had happened during the child's day.
- Younger fathers (age 15-24) were more likely to have eaten a meal with their child in the previous four weeks than were older fathers.
- 65% of fathers talked with their school-aged child every day about things that had happened in their child's day.
- 70% of black fathers had bathed, dressed, or diapered their young children, or helped them use the toilet, every day (compared with 60% white fathers and 45% Hispanic fathers).
- Black fathers (27%) of school-aged children were more likely to take their children to or from activities every day than were white fathers (20%).
- 41% of black fathers helped their children with homework every day (compared with 29% Hispanic fathers and 28% white fathers).
U.S. Census Bureau. (2018, November). America's families and living arrangements: 2018: Children (C table series). Retrieved December 11, 2018, from
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Yang, F., Tan, K.-A., & Cheng, W. J. Y. (2013). The effects of connectedness on health-promoting and health-compromising behaviors in adolescents: Evidence from a statewide survey. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 35(1), 33-46.
Ackard, D. M., Neumark-Sztainer, D., Story, M., & Perry, C. (2006). Parent-child connectedness and behavioral and emotional health among adolescents. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 30(1), 59-66.
Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative. (n.d.). Data query from the 2011/12 National Survey of Children's Health: Parental stress. Retrieved December 11, 2018, from
Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative. (n.d.). Data query from the 2016-17 National Survey of Children's Health: Indicator 6.6. Retrieved December 11, 2018, from
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Harrison, M. E., Norris, M. L., Obeid, N., Fu, M., Weinstangel, H., & Sampson, M. (2015). Systematic review of the effects of family meal frequency on psychosocial outcomes in youth. Canadian Family Physician, 61(2), e96-e106.
Hammons, A. J., & Fiese, B. H. (2011). Is frequency of shared family meals related to the nutritional health of children and adolescents? Pediatrics, 127(6), e1565-e1574.
Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative. (n.d.). Data query from the 2016-17 National Survey of Children's Health: Indicator 6.9. Retrieved December 11, 2018, from
childhealthdata.org/browse/survey/results?q=5537&r=1 (Edit search criteria to see data broken down by race/ethnicity, household income level, etc.)
Jones, J., & Mosher, W. D. (2013, December 20). Fathers' involvement with their children: United States, 2006-2010. National Health Statistics Reports Number 71. Retrieved December 11, 2018, from