BACKGROUND: Various childhood social experiences have been reported to predict adult outcomes. However, it is unclear how different social contexts may influence each other's effects in the long run. This study examined the joint contribution of adolescent family and peer experiences to young adult wellbeing and functioning.
METHODS: Participants came from the TRacking Adolescents' Individual Lives Survey (TRAILS) study (n = 2230). We measured family and peer relations at ages 11 and 16 (i.e. family functioning, perceived parenting, peer status, peer relationship quality), and functioning as the combination of subjective wellbeing, physical and mental health, and socio-academic functioning at age 22. Using structural equation modelling, overall functioning was indicated by two latent variables for positive and negative functioning. Positive, negative and overall functioning at young adulthood were regressed on adolescent family experiences, peer experiences and interactions between the two.
RESULTS: Family experiences during early and mid-adolescence were most predictive for later functioning; peer experiences did not independently predict functioning. Interactions between family and peer experiences showed that both protective and risk factors can have context-dependent effects, being exacerbated or overshadowed by negative experiences or buffered by positive experiences in other contexts. Overall the effect sizes were modest at best.
CONCLUSIONS: Adolescent family relations as well as the interplay with peer experiences predict young adult functioning. This emphasizes the importance of considering the relative effects of one context in relation to the other.