To examine the psychometric properties of a scale of perceived mattering to (step)parents and its links to adolescent mental health.
Parenting behaviors are important for adolescent development; less is known about the meanings adolescents attach to parents’ behaviors. One fundamental meaning adolescents may intuit is that parental behaviors signify how much the adolescent matters to his or her parents.
Using a cross‐sectional community sample of 392 children in seventh grade and their parents, half intact and half stepfather families, adolescents reported on mattering and adolescents, teachers, and parents reported on adolescent mental health. Confirmatory factor analysis was used to assess the structure and psychometric properties of a new mattering scale.
We found evidence of unidimensionality and discriminant validity for our mattering scale. Mattering correlated negatively with multiple reports of adolescent behavioral problems (internalizing, externalizing) across all parents (i.e., mothers, residential [step]fathers, nonresidential fathers). Within intact families, correlations between mattering and adolescent mental health were stronger for fathers than for mothers.
These findings provide evidence of the reliability and validity of the mattering measure, suggest that mattering is important for adolescent mental health, and highlight the importance of father–child relationships for adolescents.
Our findings highlight the value of targeting fathers, not just mothers, in parenting interventions and of considering mattering in intervention work with families. Furthermore, policies regarding custodial arrangements in divorced, separated, or repartnered families should support father–child relationships when possible.