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Teens in a single parent household are 'more likely to show delinquent behaviour'

Teens in a single parent household are 'more likely to show delinquent behaviour'

Teens who live with just one of their parents are more likely to engage in “delinquent” behavior — even if there’s a stepparent in the house, a new study says.

Academics in Sweden studied surveys of 14- and 15-year-olds in a variety of living situations, including living with both parents, a single parent and a stepparent.

Some of the youths had been guilty of various crimes, ranging in seriousness from graffiti to robbing someone and carrying a knife as a weapon.

Teens who lived with a single father, single mother, father-stepmother and mother-stepfather reported more delinquency than those who lived with both their parents, the academics found.

The study authors emphasized that if a teen lives with only one of their biological parents, it does not necessarily mean they are delinquents.

Because they studied the results of Swedish teenagers of a fairly narrow age group, further research may be needed.

Teens living in single-parent families are more likely to engage in

Teens living in single-parent families are more likely to engage in “delinquent” behaviors, such as shoplifting and graffiti, the study said.


Self-reported delinquency was defined as any of the following committed within the past 12 months:

– To hit someone

– Robbed someone

– Had a knife as a weapon when going out

– Shoplifting

– Stolen a bike

– Stolen something from someone’s pocket or purse

– Stolen something from a car or broke into a car to steal something

– Graffiti

– Injury


The new study was published this week in the open-access journal PLOS One by Robert Svensson and Björn Johnson of Malmö University, Sweden.

“This study demonstrates the importance of moving to the use of more detailed categorizations of family structure in relation to delinquency,” they write in their paper.

‘We need to increase our knowledge about the group of young people who move between parents.’

Previous studies have shown that not living with both parents is positively associated with delinquent behavior.

However, these are ‘greatly simplified’ in the sense that, for example, they only live with both parents compared to not living with both parents.

For the new study, the researchers took into account the broader living conditions of teens who did not live with both of their parents.

They distinguished between teenagers who lived in ‘symmetric’ or ‘asymmetric’ family arrangements.

Symmetrical family arrangements are arrangements where both parents are single or where both parents have a new partner.

Meanwhile, “asymmetric” family arrangements are those where either the mother or the father, but not both, have a new partner.

For the study, behaviors defined as delinquent ranged in severity from graffiti to robbing someone and carrying a knife as a weapon.

For the study, behaviors defined as delinquent ranged in severity from graffiti to robbing someone and carrying a knife as a weapon.

Researchers used data from four cross-sectional studies conducted in southern Sweden between 2016 and 2019, involving a total of 3,838 teens ages 14 to 15.

The surveys were conducted at 17 secondary schools in eight small municipalities in the county of Skåne, Sweden’s southernmost county, with approximately 1.4 million inhabitants.

The data includes self-reported information on nine delinquent behaviors — including shoplifting, graffiti, robbing someone and carrying a knife when away from home — as well as detailed family structure.

Compared with adolescents who lived with both their mothers and fathers, delinquent behavior was more common in those who lived with a single father, a single mother, a father and stepmother, or a mother and stepfather.

Of all participants, teens in symmetrical families — where parents live separately and share custody, but both are single or both have a new partner — generally reported lower levels of delinquency than those in asymmetrical families.

However, the experts also found that many of the associations between family structure and delinquency decreased when adjusted for parental attachment and supervision data.

Researchers admit that in their study they failed to demonstrate causality — in other words, they did not show that certain family structures cause delinquency and others do not.

Another limitation is that the study sample came from teenagers in only one Swedish country; further research would ideally include a much larger sample.

Overall, the authors conclude that categorizing family structure more precisely can shed light on the factors that contribute to delinquency.


Girls with single parents are twice as likely to be obese than their peers living in two-parent families, a 2017 study found.

Researchers from QIMR Berghofer in Brisbane, Australia, found that girls aged 12 to 17 were more likely to eat a less healthy diet in a single-parent family.

It also found that these girls tend to “spend more time in sedentary behavior,” which also contributes to the higher risk of obesity.

Low education and sports avoidance contributed to obesity in all young girls in the adolescent age group, regardless of their living situation.

And girls whose parents were not college-educated were significantly more likely to be obese.

Their risk only increased if they lived in a single-parent family, making them three times more likely to be obese.

The study found that surprisingly, junk food was not a major cause of obesity in adolescent girls.

But junk food and regular takeout meals turned out to be the main reasons boys ages 5 to 11 were obese.

Ready-to-eat or fried foods such as hamburgers, pizza, sausage rolls and chips were considered ‘takeaway’ in the study.

The study also found that boys whose parents didn’t go to college were twice as likely to be obese.

And, as with girls, the study found that guys who avoided exercising were also at risk of gaining too much weight.

The Brisbane institution examined the different causes of obesity between young and adolescent boys and girls, and surveyed the parents of 3,500 children.

Four percent of girls ages 12 to 17 were found to be obese, a lower number than both boys in the same age group and girls younger than them.

Seven percent of boys ages 12 to 17 were found to be obese, five percent lower than boys ages five to 11, and four percent lower than girls ages 5 to 11.

Professor Peter O’Rourke, senior biostatistician at QIMR Berghofer, said more research is needed to find out why girls with single parents are more likely to be obese.

But he added that parents should focus on the things they can easily change, such as diet and exercise.

“While some factors are beyond the parents’ control, encouraging regular exercise is one of the best things they can do,” he said.

O’Rourke also advised parents to eat a healthy diet packed with fruits and vegetables and reduce takeout meals at the table.


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