A study has found that kids in high-conflict married households tend to do no better than those in stepfather and single-mother families.
Although it is known that living with both biological parents has a positive influence on teenagers’ academic and behavioural performance, but if the parents frequently argue, young adults are significantly more likely to binge drink than other teenagers.
In fact, such kids also tend to smoke, and their poor school grades are similar to those of their peers who don’t have both biological parents at home.
“Our findings suggest that exposure to parental conflict in adolescence is associated with poorer academic achievement, increased substance use and early family formation and dissolution, often in ways indistinguishable from living in a stepfather or single-mother family,” said Kelly Musick, Cornell associate professor of policy analysis and management.
In the study, led by Musick, the researchers looked at how teenagers in 1,963 households in the National Survey of Families and Households fared from their teens to early 30s.
They compared those who lived with married parents who often fought with those living in stepfather or single-mother households.
Also, they analysed outcomes such as school success, substance abuse and childbearing out of wedlock.
“Our results clearly illustrate that the advantages of living with two continuously married parents are not shared equally by all children. Compared with children in low-conflict families, children from high-conflict families are more likely to drop out of school, have poor grades, smoke, binge drink, use marijuana, have early sex, be young and unmarried when they have a child and then experience the break-up of that relationship,” said Musick.
She added that these differences were not due to income and parenting styles.
Also, she said that the timing and sequence of such young adult transitions are important indicators for success in later life.
Interestingly, Musick said that for half these outcomes, associations with parental conflict are statistically indistinguishable from those with stepfather and single mother-families.
Young adults from high-conflict households, compared with stepfather or single-mother families, are significantly less likely to drop out of high school, have early sex and cohabit, and are more likely to attend college.
In fact, they are also significantly more likely to binge drink.
“The odds of binge drinking are about a third higher for children from high-conflict families compared to single-mother families,” said Musick.
The study is published as a report in The Rural New York Minute, a publication of Cornell’s Community and Rural Development Institute.