Primary Sources: Does Parental Relationship Happiness Improve Outcomes for Children?

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Photograph of a happy couple.

Parental Relationship Quality and Child Outcomes Across Subgroups,” Child Trends, April 2011.

What it's about: Researchers analyzed over 64,000 responses to the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health, from parents of children between the ages of 6 and 17, in order to find out whether positive parental relationships affected their children’s social competence, school engagement, or communication with parents.

Why read it: Although many studies have examined the link between parents’ relationships and children’s outcomes, most do not include such a large, nationally representative sample. This study includes information about children’s age and gender, family type, race, ethnicity, immigrant status, parents’ education, and family income.

Biggest take away for youth workers: Parents rated their relationships as “completely happy,” “very happy,” “fairly happy,” or “not too happy.” The authors found that when parents say their relationship is completely happy, their children have higher social competence, are more engaged in school, and communicate better with their parents. These outcomes hold true regardless of ethnicity, marital status, or family income. Youth workers should be aware that parents’ relationships affect young people’s well-being. Programs that help parents create a happier relationship could also help improve outcomes for youth.

Additional reference: This study was based on data from the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health.

Read the Exchange, “Research to Practice: Making Developmental Systems Theory Work for You,” which includes an article on Positive Family Development.

(Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children and Families. Go to the NCFY literature database for abstracts of this and other publications.)

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