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Without the Ties that Bind: Young Adults Who Lack Active Parental Relationships

Publication Abstract

Download PDF versionHartnett, Caroline Sten, Karen Fingerman, and Kira Birditt. 2016. "Without the Ties that Bind: Young Adults Who Lack Active Parental Relationships." PSC Research Report No. 16-870. 9 2016.

Parents are an important source of affection and support for young adults in the U.S., so those who lack parental relationships are a potentially vulnerable group. The purpose of this study is to describe how common it is for young adults to lack active parental ties, identify predictors of estrangement, and examine how individuals without parental ties are faring in young adulthood, using logistic and ordered logistic regression. Analysis of the 2008-2009 National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (N=5,080) reveals that 24% of young adults ages 25-32 in the U.S. lack an active relationship with at least one parent, which translates into 7.9 million individuals. A large share of young adults lack a relationship with a father figure (20%), and a smaller but substantial share lack a relationship with a mother figure (6.5%). Consistent with Family Stress Theory, lacking contact was more common when there was a disruptive event such as parental separation or when the initial tie was weaker, such as when the parent figure was not the biological parent. Young adults who do not have parental ties face disadvantages such as lower levels of education, poorer health, and more depressive symptoms, pointing to compounding disadvantages.

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