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The differential importance of friend, relative and partner relationships for the mental health of young adults

Social Networks and Health

ISBN: 978-0-76230-881-1, eISBN: 978-1-84950-152-1

ISSN: 1057-6290

Publication date: 1 January 2002

Abstract

This study examines the positive and negative effects on mental health of three types of network members — friends, relatives and partners. It focuses on how the mental health impact of these relationships changes among young adults who are single, cohabiting, married, or divorced. We test the hypotheses that the negative impact on mental health of problematic relationships varies inversely with the degree to which they are voluntary while the positive impact on mental health of supportive relationships varies directly with the degree to which they are voluntary. Data come from a sample of 1257 young adults who were 25–31 years-old in 1992–1994. Mental health status is controlled through the use of a depression measure obtained from the same persons seven years earlier. In general, the findings support both hypotheses. Problems with partners and relatives have the strongest direct relationships with depression while support from friends has the strongest inverse relationship with depression. For this sample of young adults, relationships with friends have a stronger relationship to mental health than relationships with relatives. However, the results vary across marital statuses: friendships are especially important for the mental health of single and divorced people while problems with partners have a greater impact on depression for married than cohabiting people. The implications of the findings for the functions of network members on mental health are discussed.

Citation

McLaughlin, J., Horwitz, A.V. and Raskin White, H. (2002), "The differential importance of friend, relative and partner relationships for the mental health of young adults", Levy, J.A. and Pescosolido, B.A. (Ed.) Social Networks and Health (Advances in Medical Sociology, Vol. 8), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 223-246. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1057-6290(02)80028-6

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2002, Emerald Group Publishing Limited