Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 25, Issue 7, pp 2201–2210 | Cite as

The Relationship Between Family Stress and Behavioral Health Among African American Adolescents

  • Dexter R. Voisin
  • Caitlin Elsaesser
  • Dong Ha Kim
  • Sadiq Patel
  • Annie Cantara
Original Paper


African American youth, especially those who live in low-income communities, are at increased risk for experiencing higher juvenile justice involvement, poorer mental health, low school engagement, higher illicit drug use, and STIs, relative to their higher income peers and those from other ethnic backgrounds. However, few studies have examined the relationship between family stressors and these multiple youth concerns. This study examines the relationship between family stress (i.e., having an adult in the home with a history of mental illness, substance use, and incarceration) and youth concerns such as substance use, mental health challenges, low school engagement, juvenile justice involvement, and STI risk behaviors. A total of 638 African American adolescents living in predominantly low-income, urban communities participated in the study by completing self-report measures on the above constructs. Logistic regressions controlling for age, gender, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation indicated that adolescents who reported higher rates of family stress were significantly more likely to report mental health problems, delinquent behaviors, juvenile justice involvement, drug use, risky sex, and lower school engagement factors. Findings suggest that attending to the developmental concerns of youth also requires addressing the needs of the family unit.


Family stress Mental health Delinquency School engagement Substance use Sexual behaviors African American youth 



Funding for this study was supported by the Center for Health Administration Studies and the STI/HIV Intervention Network at the University of Chicago.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

All authors disclose that there are no potential conflict of interests.

Human and Animal Rights

Research involving human subjects received University Internal Review Board Approval.

Informed Consent

All youth provided informed assent prior to study enrollment.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dexter R. Voisin
    • 1
  • Caitlin Elsaesser
    • 2
  • Dong Ha Kim
    • 3
  • Sadiq Patel
    • 1
  • Annie Cantara
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Social Service AdministrationUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.University of ConnecticutHartfieldUSA
  3. 3.Sungkyunkwan UniversitySeoulKorea

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