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Strong Adolescent-Parent Relationships Linked to Better Long-Term Health Outcomes, Finds CHOP Study

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A new study by researchers from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) suggests that adolescents with strong relationships with their parents experience better long-term health outcomes, including improved mental and sexual health, and reduced substance abuse in young adulthood. The study findings, published in JAMA Network Open, highlight the potential for investing in improving parent-adolescent relationships to promote general wellbeing.

While prior research has shown that positive parent-adolescent relationships can improve overall health outcomes and reduce the risk of substance abuse, these studies have often been limited by small sample sizes and a lack of diversity. In contrast, this study, which utilised data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, included over 15,000 adults who were initially enrolled in the study in the mid-1990s when they were between 12 and 17 years old.

The researchers tested whether adolescents’ reports of specific, measurable characteristics of their relationships with mother- and father-figures with whom they live were linked to health outcomes measured 14 years later. The study controlled for age, race, ethnicity, family structure, and other factors.

Participants who reported higher levels of warmth, communication, time together, academic expectations, relationship or communication satisfaction, and inductive discipline with both their mothers and fathers reported significantly higher levels of general health in young adulthood. Additionally, they reported higher levels of optimism and romantic relationship quality, and lower levels of stress and depressive symptoms. Higher levels of adolescent-reported parental warmth, time together, and relationship or communication satisfaction were also associated with lower levels of nicotine dependence and substance abuse in young adulthood, as well as lower odds of unintended pregnancy.

“Efforts to strengthen parent-adolescent relationships may have important long-term health benefits,” said senior study author Carol A. Ford, MD, Chief of the Craig-Dalsimer Division of Adolescent Medicine and the Orton P. Jackson Endowed Chair in Adolescent Medicine at CHOP.

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