Author ORCID Identifier

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Albert Farrell, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Rosalie Corona, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Elizabeth Farmer, Ph.D.


There is convincing support for the link between family composition and adolescents’ problem behaviors. What is less clear is the extent to which these relations exist for African-American adolescents. Previous studies have demonstrated that this relation varies by gender. However, there is limited evidence to suggest the potential moderating influence of adult support. The purpose of this study was to examine the influence of family composition on adolescents’ physical aggression, delinquency, and substance use. The study comes from secondary analyses of a larger study that evaluated the effectiveness of a violence prevention program. The current study included 1,116 African-American middle school students from an urban setting who endorsed living with their biological mother and considered her to be their parent. Results indicated that among adolescents who identified their nonresidential biological father as their parent, those in stepfather families reported lower levels of delinquency than those in single-mother families. Support was not found for similar differences in self-report of delinquency and substance use, and teacher-report of adolescents’ physical aggression. No other differences in family composition were found for adolescent problem behavior. Support was also not found for the moderating roles of gender or adult support. However, self-report of delinquency and substance use, and teacher-report of physical aggression were negatively related to adult support. This was not the case for self-report of physical aggression. These findings suggest that interventions may need to provide additional resources that would help both parents and adolescents within single-parent families.


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