[Skip to Navigation]
September 1977

Family Structure and the Mental Health of Children: Concurrent and Longitudinal Community-Wide Studies

Author Affiliations

From the Social Psychiatry Study Center, Department of Psychiatry (Dr Kellam and Ms Ensminger), University of Chicago, and the Department of Sociology (Dr Turner), University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1977;34(9):1012-1022. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1977.01770210026002

• This study provides a map of variations of families and some of the core relationships between types of family and the mental health of children. Family types in a poor, black urban community were defined in terms of the adults present at home. The resulting taxonomy is based on two populations: half of the community's 1964 first-grade children and families and the entire 1966 first-grade children and families. Eighty-six family types were found, falling into ten major classes. Family type was found to be strongly related over time to the child's social adaptational status (SAS) and his or her psychological wellbeing. The results suggest that (1) mother alone families entail the highest risk in terms of social maladaptation and psychological well-being of the child; (2) the presence of certain second adults has important ameliorative functions—mother/grandmother families being nearly as effective as mother/father families, with mother/stepfather families similar to mother alone in regard to risk; and (3) the absence of the father was less important than the aloneness of the mother in relation to risk.

Add or change institution