Adolescent Development as a Determinant of Family Cohesion: A Longitudinal Analysis of Adolescents in the Mobile Youth Survey

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Previous research has demonstrated the effect of family cohesion on adolescent outcomes. However, little attention has been given to the effect of adolescence on the family environment. Family systems theory suggests that as adolescents develop, their development will impact the family environment. The current study examined the impact of adolescent development on family cohesion. Specifically, 4 years of data from the Mobile Youth Survey, a study of adolescents living in low-income neighborhoods in Mobile, Alabama, were analyzed. Survey participants were between the ages 13 and 16 and 97 % of them were Black American. Adolescent development was measured using three dimensions—identity style, self-worth, and hopelessness. Family cohesion was measured along two dimensions: maternal and paternal warmth. Adolescent gender was used as a covariate. The longitudinal models revealed that parents responded differently to identity styles and to levels of self-worth depending upon the adolescent’s gender. Our study provides evidence that family cohesion, a key predictor of adolescent behaviors, changes in response to adolescent development.