Journal of Youth and Adolescence, Vol. 35, No. 1, February 2006, pp. 105–113 (
Family Functioning and School Success in At-Risk,
and Howard A. Liddle
Received March 31, 2005; accepted April 4, 2005
Published online: 18 March 2006
The relation between family functioning and school success was examined in 211 at risk, African
American, inner city adolescents attending middle school (grades 6–8). Interviews with adoles-
cents and caregivers yielded data on family cohesion, parental monitoring, and school engagement;
school records provided data on grade point average. Results showed that both family cohesion and
parental monitoring predicted school engagement, but neither family characteristic predicted GPA.
Important gender differences also emerged. For boys only, the relation between family cohesion
and school engagement was stronger when parental monitoring was high. For girls only, the ef-
fects of cohesion and monitoring on school engagement were additive: girls with both high family
cohesion and high parental monitoring were most likely to be engaged in school. These ﬁndings
extend the research base on family protective factors for antisocial behavior in young adolescents.
Implications for future examination of family process characteristics in high-risk adolescents are
KEY WORDS: family process; school success; at-risk adolescents; gender differences.
This work is based on the dissertation research of the ﬁrst author sub-
mitted to the Department of Psychology at Fordham University.
Research Associate, Hudson Valley Cerebral Palsy, Patterson, NY. Pro-
fessional Training: PhD, Developmental Psychology, Fordham Univer-
sity. Major interests include etiology and treatment research on devel-
opmental disabilities and psychological health problems in children
Senior Research Associate, The National Center on Addiction and Sub-
stance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, New York, NY. Profes-
sional Training: PhD, Clinical Psychology, Temple University. Major
interests include development of family-based interventions for adoles-
cent drug use and delinquency, adherence and process research on fam-
ily intervention models. To whom correspondence should be addressed
at The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at
Columbia University, New York, NY; e-mail: email@example.com.
Research Associate, National Clinical Assessment Authority, London,
England. Professional Training: PhD, Developmental Psychology,
Fordham University. Major interests include mental health services
research and program evaluation.
Professor and Director, Center for Treatment Research on Adolescent
Drug Abuse, University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, FL. Pro-
fessional Training: EdD, Counseling Psychology and Family Therapy,
Northern Illinois University. Major interests include developing, test-
ing, and disseminating family-based treatment for adolescent substance
abuse and related behvioral problems.
The inner-city environment often includes multiple
risks to healthy adolescent development. Poverty, disor-
derly and stressful environments, poor health care, de-
teriorated schools and other institutional supports, and
high levels of crime characterize many inner-city neigh-
borhoods (Tolan et al., 1997b). Furthermore, there are
typically few resources to counteract these threats. Re-
cent studies have focused on factors that strengthen per-
sonal resources and serve to protect adolescents living
in the inner-city from such risks (Finn and Rock, 1997;
Florsheim et al., 1998; Vazsonyi and Pickering, 2003).
School success has emerged as one such factor (Maddox
and Prinz, 2003; Roeser et al., 1998). The term “educa-
tional resilience” has been adopted to describe students
who manage to be engaged in school and perform well
despite facing the same risk conditions that raise the inci-
dence of school failure for their peers (Wang and Gordon,
1994). Much current research is concerned with ways
to boost educational resilience among the most at-risk
2006 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.