Medical News

Early Exposure to Parents' Relationship Instability: Implications for Sexual Behavior and Depression in Adolescence

April 27, 2011

The current study examined the effects of the timing of parents' relationship instability on adolescent sexual and mental health.


A total of 585 participants were assessed annually from age five through young adulthood as part of a multisite community sample. The timing of parents' relationship instability and whether it was predictive of adolescents' history of sexual partnerships (SP) and major depressive episodes was examined. Multivariate logistic regression analyses controlled for potential mediators related to parenting and the family, including parental knowledge of activities, parent-child relationship quality, number of parents' post-separation relationship transitions, and number of on-hand caregivers.

Participants who experienced parents' relationship instability before age five were more likely to report SP at age 16 (adjusted odds ratio=1.58) or an adolescent episode of major depression (AOR=2.61). Greater parental knowledge at age 12 decreased the likelihood of SP at age 16, "but none of the hypothesized parenting and family variables statistically mediated the association between early instability and SP or major depressive episode," according to the study.

"These results suggest that experiencing parents' relationship instability in early childhood is associated with sexual behavior and major depression in adolescence, but these associations are not explained by the parenting and family variables included in our analyses," the authors concluded.

Back to other news for April 2011

Adapted from:
Journal of Adolescent Health
12.2010; Vol. 47; No. 6: P. 547-554; Kelly L. Donahue, B.A.; Brian M. D'Onofrio, Ph.D.; John E. Bates, Ph.D.; Jennifer E. Lansford, Ph.D.; Kenneth A. Dodge, Ph.D.; Gregory S. Petit, Ph.D.

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.

No comments have been made.

Add Your Comment:
(Please note: Your name and comment will be public, and may even show up in
Internet search results. Be careful when providing personal information! Before
adding your comment, please read's Comment Policy.)

Your Name:

Your Location:

(ex: San Francisco, CA)

Your Comment:

Characters remaining:


The content on this page is free of advertiser influence and was produced by our editorial team. See our content and advertising policies.