Research on Finnish Society (1:2008)

Family Structure and Adolescent Victimization in Finland: Investigating the Stepfamily as a Source of Risk

Jukka Savolainen
Speer Visiting Professor of Finnish Studies
Department of Sociology
University of Minnesota

Sociological research on family structure suggests that living in a stepfamily may constitute an important risk factor for a number of outcomes of adolescent well-being. In our data, the prevalence of violent victimization is significantly higher among children from stepfamilies than among those living in either single parent or intact two-parent families. In an effort to develop an explanation for the stepfamily effect, we draw on two theoretical perspectives, the stress-conflict model and evolutionary psychology. The mediating variables derived from the stress-conflict model explain a meaningful share of the increased risk associated with stepfamily status. By contrast, our research finds little support for the assumptions of evolutionary psychology.

Key words: Victimization, violence, step-families, Finland, adolescence