Associations between adolescents’ internalizing problems and well-being: is there a buffering role of boys’ and girls’ relationships with their mothers and fathers?

Chantie Charissa Luijten*, Daphne van de Bongardt, Joran Jongerling, Anna Petra Nieboer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Internalizing mental health problems (i.e., depression and anxiety symptoms) are known to be related negatively to adolescents’ well-being. However, whether this negative association manifests equally in boys and girls, and the potential buffering role of high-quality relationships with mothers and fathers, remain unknown. Thus, the present study was conducted to 1) investigate associations among adolescents’ internalizing problems and mother– and father–adolescent relationship quality, on the one hand, and adolescents’ well-being, on the other hand, 2) explore the buffering role of high-quality mother– and father–adolescent relationships in the association between adolescents’ internalizing problems and well-being, and 3) examine gender differences in these main and buffering effects. Methods: The analysis sample consisted of 1064 adolescents (53.7% girls; aged 11–17 years) from three secondary schools in the Netherlands. Participants filled out an online questionnaire incorporating the Mental Health Continuum–Short Form to measure well-being, the Revised Child Anxiety and Depression Scale-25 to measure internalizing problems, and the Network of Relationships Inventory to measure mother– and father–adolescent relationship quality. The cross-sectional data were analyzed using path models in R, controlling for age, ethnocultural background, and education level. Multigroup analyses were performed to identify gender differences. Results: Adolescents with fewer internalizing problems (β = − 0.40, p < 0.001) and adolescents with higher-quality relationships with their mothers and fathers reported higher concurrent levels of well-being (β = 0.10 to 0.18, all p < 0.01). The quality of mother-adolescent relationships had a significantly larger association with adolescents’ well-being than that of father-adolescent relationship quality. However, relationships with mothers and fathers did not significantly buffer the association between adolescents’ internalizing problems and well-being. Multigroup analyses revealed no difference between boys and girls. Conclusions: The current study contributes to the understanding of internalizing problems as an important risk factor for adolescents’ well-being, regardless of the quality of relationships with mothers and fathers. The quality of adolescents’ relationships with their parents is associated positively with their well-being, even in the presence of internalizing problems. These findings underline the importance of mothers’ and fathers’ roles in adolescent boys’ and girls’ well-being.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1871
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Early online date16 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


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