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What's This About?
In this section, we offer selected statistics regarding U.S. youth, together with a few statistics focused on New York State. Links and endnotes will connect you to rich resources for further information. These pages are updated periodically.

Demographics: Family Structure and Relationships

Parents' Assessment of Relationship with Children

Family Structure

In 2015, two out of three (66%) of adolescents age 12-17 lived with both parents [1]. The quality of parents' relationships makes a difference to children in many ways. A Child Trends analysis found that whether parents are married or cohabitating, parental relationship quality -- how happy parents are in the relationship -- is associated with children's behavior problems, social competence, school engagement, and depression [2].

Grandparents share increasingly sharing responsibility for children's care. About 7% of children under 18 lived in a grandparent's home in 2015, usually with one or both parents [3].


Parent-child connectedness is associated with a wide range of health indicators. Close, positive family relationships that feature open communication help young people stay healthy and avoid substance use and violent behavior [4, 5].

While parenting can be stressful, only 11% of children have parents who say they are usually or always stressed from parenting [6]. Most parents feel very close to their children (87%), have met most or all of their children's friends (84%) [7], and feel they can share ideas and talk about things that really matter very well (70%) [8]. While these indicators gradually decline as children grow, the percentages remain very high into adolescence [7].

From the perspective of adolescents, parents are very influential. While parents tend to believe that peers most influence teens' decisions about sex, for example, teens cite parents' influence more often than that of friends, siblings, teachers, religious leaders, and the media [9].

In one large study (not nationally representative), a diverse group of middle and high school students responded to questions about their closeness and comfort with their parents [5]:

  • Boys (82%) and girls (76%) said they valued their parents' opinions over their friends' when it came to serious decisions.
  • The great majority understood that their mothers cared about them (91% boys, 89% girls), and that their fathers cared as well (82% boys, 79% girls).
When parents are involved in school (i.e., attend meetings and events, volunteer), their children are more likely to do well in school and to graduate [10]. In 2012, 87% of middle school students and 79% of high school students had a parent who attended a teacher meeting [10].

Family meals provide opportunities to communicate and strengthen relationships, and teens benefit when they eat regularly with their parents [11]. About one in three adolescents age 12-17 eat with their families every day, and an additional 37% eat with their families on most days [12]. Hispanic youth age 12-17 are more likely to eat frequently with their families than are white or black youth [11]. Adolescents with family income below the poverty line are more likely to have near-daily family meals than are adolescents with higher incomes.

Fathers' Involvement

A National Center for Health Statistics analysis of the 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth looked closely at several measures of fathers' involvement with their children [13].

Among fathers and children who lived apart:

  • 16% of fathers talked with their school-aged child every day about things that had happened during the child's day.
  • Younger fathers (age 15-24) were more likely to have eaten a meal with their child in the previous four weeks than were older fathers.
Among fathers and children who lived together:
  • 65% of fathers talked with their school-aged child every day about things that had happened in their child's day.
  • 70% of black fathers had bathed, dressed, or diapered their young children, or helped them use the toilet, every day (compared with 60% white fathers and 45% Hispanic fathers).
  • Black fathers (27%) of school-aged children were more likely to take their children to or from activities every day than were white fathers (20%).
  • 41% of black fathers helped their children with homework every day (compared with 29% Hispanic fathers and 28% white fathers).


[1]   U.S. Census Bureau. (2015, November). America's families and living arrangements: 2015: Children (C table series). Retrieved September 23, 2016, from
[2]   Moore, K. A., Kinghorn, A., & Bandy, T. (2011). Parental relationship quality and child outcomes across subgroups. Retrieved September 23, 2016, from

[3]   Child Trends Databank. (2015, December). Family structure. Retrieved September 23, 2016, from
[4]   Yang, F., Tan, K.-A., & Cheng, W. J. Y. (2013). The effects of connectedness on health-promoting and health-compromising behaviors in adolescents: Evidence from a statewide survey. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 35(1), 33-46.
[5]   Ackard, D. M., Neumark-Sztainer, D., Story, M., & Perry, C. (2006). Parent-child connectedness and behavioral and emotional health among adolescents. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 30(1), 59-66.
[6]   Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative. (n.d.). Data query from the 2011/12 National Survey of Children's Health: Parental stress. Retrieved September 23, 2016, from
[7]   Bandy, T., & Moore, K. A. (2008, August). The parent-child relationship: A family strength. Child Trends Fact Sheet. Retrieved September 23, 2016, from

[8]   Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative. (n.d.). Data query from the 2011/12 National Survey of Children's Health: Parent and child share ideas. Retrieved September 23, 2016, from
[9]   Albert, B. (2012). With one voice 2012: America's adults and teens sound off about teen pregnancy. Retrieved September 23, 2016, from
[10]   Child Trends. (2013, September). Parental involvement in schools. Retrieved September 23, 2016, from
[11]   Child Trends. (2013, May). Family meals. Retrieved September 23, 2016, from
[12]   Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative. (n.d.). Data query from the 2011/12 National Survey of Children's Health: Indicator 6.8: Family eats meals together. Retrieved September 23, 2016, from
[13]   Jones, J., & Mosher, W. D. (2013, December 20). Fathers' involvement with their children: United States, 2006-2010. National Health Statistics Reports Number 71. Retrieved September 23, 2016, from
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