The Long Term Impact of Adolescent Risky Behaviors and Family Environment. c. Family Environment


For our investigation into the impact of adolescent family structure, we use a measure of living arrangements at age 14. While the impact of family structure is likely a dynamic process, differing depending on when and how many changes occurred, we simplify the analysis to a single age around the time that most adolescents are making their choices whether to undertake a risky activity. 10

We identify six different family types:

  • two biological parents,
  • single mother,
  • single father,
  • mother with stepfather (or other man),
  • father with stepmother (or other woman), and
  • no biological parents (living with relatives, non-relatives, or in institutions).

To explore the impact of SES, we examine mother's and father's education, categorized as: less than 12 years, 12 years, some college, and college graduate. To explore the impact of having a parent with alcohol problems, we create a single variable that captures if either biological parent was an alcoholic or a problem drinker during the respondent's childhood. 11