June 1, 2005
Background: How do some teenagers manage to overcome apparent disadvantage and make a success of their lives while others fail? The question of why some teenagers are able to beat the odds and make a success of the transition into adulthood despite family disadvantage is a topic of concern. There is considerable evidence that family disruption (e.g. the high levels of divorce and the consequent increase in one parent families) has an impact on young people’s wellbeing and subsequent achievements, not least because of the economic disadvantage that is often associated with such households. Yet young people are affected in different ways by their family circumstances depending, in part, on their gender, age, aptitude and the like, as well as the relationship they have with their parent(s) and peers. Aggregate level statistics mask huge variations in how teenagers cope at the individual level. By using longitudinal data we are able to examine the processes by which experiences in families in the early teenage years affect young people’s aspirations and help shape various outcome measures. These include mental health and the achievement of sound educational qualifications. Both are important foundations for successful transition into adult roles and responsibilities.