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Family life and health in adolescence: A role for culture in the health inequalities debate

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  • Sweeting, Helen
  • West, Patrick
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    Abstract

    Until recently, the role of the family in the 'health inequalities' debate has been largely ignored. Using data from the youngest cohort in the West of Scotland Twenty-07 Study, three dimensions of family life (family structure, culture and conflict) are examined in respect of their association both with health when respondents were aged 15 and 18, and with labour market position at 18. Despite a strong association between family structure and material deprivation, those from intact, reconstituted and single parent families were largely undifferentiated in terms of health. By contrast, aspects of family functioning, particularly a poorer relationship and conflict with parent(s), were independently associated with lower self-esteem, poorer psychological well-being and (among females) more physical symptoms at both ages. In addition, both family culture and conflict were associated with labour market position over and above the effects of material deprivation, with those from family centred and lower conflict homes having a greater likelihood of being in tertiary education. While the relationships between the family and psychological well-being and, to a lesser extent, physical symptoms appeared to be mediated by self-esteem, those between the family and labour market position did not. These findings suggest that in adolescence family life may have more direct effects on health than material factors and, through social mobility, may be indirectly linked to health inequalities in adulthood. These family processes, we argue, are expressions of cultural influences, the scope of which to date has been too narrowly focused on health behaviours.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 40 (1995)
    Issue (Month): 2 (January)
    Pages: 163-175

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:40:y:1995:i:2:p:163-175

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    Related research

    Keywords: family life adolescent health cultural explanations health inequalities;

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    Cited by:
    1. Maurizio Pugno, 2011. "Scitovsky and the income-happiness paradox," Working Papers 2011-07, Universita' di Cassino, Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche.
    2. Buchanan, Ann & Ten Brinke, JoAnn, 1998. "Measuring outcomes for children: Early parenting experiences, conflict, maladjustment, and depression in adulthood," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 251-278, March.

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