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A Best-Kept Secret of Your Teen: They Really Do Care What You Think, Simmons College Study Shows

Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts Foundation Sponsors "Family Matters" Study

BOSTON (October 15, 2007) — It could be one of the best-kept secrets of surly adolescents: it may look as if they're turning away from their family in favor of their friends, but what their family thinks matters to them. A lot.

A study led by Simmons School of Social Work Professor Helen Reinherz shows that is of  paramount importance to adolescents that they feel valued by their family, and it is an important factor in their optimal mental health. Knowing that their family values their opinions promotes adolescents' self-esteem, and reduces the risk for major depression, suicidal thoughts and other mental health maladjustments, according to the study.

The study also shows that adolescents who believe that they can rely on family members for advice,  or who have parents or siblings they can view as confidants, have significantly increased chances for good academic  achievement and overall healthy social and psychological adjustment.

The findings were recently reported in the Simmons College  study "Family Matters," sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, which commissioned the data analysis to help social service agencies, community workers, parents, teachers and other caregivers understand some of the factors that can promote healthy adolescent development.

"The common belief is that the adolescent is turning away from the family—that peers suddenly become the major influence in the adolescent's life," Reinherz said. "But in reality, it is of paramount importance to most adolescents that they feel valued as a family member and that their opinions count.

"Families need to understand they are vitally important to the adolescent."

These are some of the findings from data that Reinherz and her research team collected over the past 30 years as part of the Simmons Longitudinal Study, one of the national's longest-running and most comprehensive mental health studies.  The National Institute of Mental Health funded the longitudinal study.  

Since 1977, Reinherz has led a team of researchers who followed nearly 400 residents of Quincy, MA from the time they entered kindergarten at age 5, until their mid-30s today, searching for predictors of good or poor mental health from early childhood onward. The study was designed to help parents, teachers, mental health professionals, policymakers and others improve early identification and treatment of mental health issues.

For  more information about the overall study and publications about some of  its findings, click here. The Simmons School of Social Work has a nationally acclaimed clinical social work program and is one of the oldest schools of social work in the nation.  Simmons College is a nationally recognized private university located in the heart of Boston.

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