How are the children? Children’s subjective well-being in different family types

Christine Entleitner, German Youth Institute
Alexandra Langmeyer, German Youth Institute
Valerie Heintz-Martin, German Youth Institute
Sabine Walper, German Youth Institute

The aim of this paper is to examine children’s well-being in different family types, namely nuclear families, lone-parent families, stepfamilies, and blended families (stepfamilies with common children and stepchildren). Common children in blended families are often described as a “bonding factor”, or the ones who provide a biological link to each family member. Most studies rely on data reported by parents; we know little form the children’s perspective. The Survey “Growing up in Germany”, 2009 provides data where children aged between nine and twelve report themselves. This allows us to shed light on children’s well-being in those families. We use a subsample with 2.173 girls and boys who answered the children’s questionnaire. As an indicator for children’s well-being we use the childrens’ responses of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) with the subdimensions externalizing and internalizing problems as well as prosocial behavior. Results show that child adjustment for children living in blended families is lower than expected. This is somewhat intriguing. Common children in blended families have the most internalizing problems and stepchildren living in blended families have the most externalizing problems compared to children living in lone-parent families, stepfamilies and especially in nuclear families. These results suggest that the “bonding factor” seems to be a burden for the child. Thus, the results highlight the importance to distinguish between different types of stepfamilies because children in blended families are often neglected in research. Further, the results point out the importance to take the children’s point of view into account.

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Presented in Session 72: Fertility and happiness