A new look at parenting during adolescence : reciprocal interactions in everyday life

University dissertation from Örebro : Örebro universitetsbibliotek

Abstract: In this dissertation I pose the question: Under what conditions are parent-child relationships linked to good, or bad, adolescent adjustment and under what conditions are they not?Study I focused on subjects with multiproblematic adjustment. It was proposed that multiproblematic adjustment in adolescence (as well as in late childhood and early adulthood) has to be seen in terms of individual and family characteristics early in life. The findings confirmed the hypothesis that children characterized by both pre-school conduct problem and poor mother-child relations, later in life showed considerably more problems in different environments than did children with other combinations of conduct problems and mother relations.Studies II-IV aimed at understanding the association between parent-child relationships and adjustment specifically during adolescence. Study II examined how parental trust could be gained, the importance of it, and how it could be linked to adolescent adjustment. Since the trust that parents expressed relative to their children was assumed to be primarily based on the knowledge parents have about their children, three possible sources of parental knowledge were examined (of child’s feelings and concerns, of past delinquency, and of daily activities) along with sources of parental knowledge itself. The results showed that parents’ knowledge of daily activities that came from the child’s spontaneous disclosure was most closely linked to their trust in their child, and parents’ trust, in turn, was associated with good parent-child relations and good adjustment on part of the adolescent. Study III examined how parental control, warmth, and communication in the parent-child relationship are associated with positive and negative adolescent adjustment. Structural equations tests of a theoretical model suggested that the link from parental warmth through parental control to adolescent adjustment was weak compared with the path from parental warmth through child disclosure to adolescent adjustment. Across informants, direct parental control was minimally important, if at all.Study IV examined whether adolescents’ not wanting parental involvement was a normal part of the parent-child relationship during adolescence. It was shown that not wanting parents to be involved generally was a sign of poor adolescent adjustment, even when controlling for problem behaviors and family problems. Person-oriented analyses identified a group of adolescents who wanted low levels of parental involvement, who were normal in terms of family problems and behavior problems and showed evidence of healthy psychological functioning. In view of the small size of this group (11%), and the results from the analyses of linear relations, it was concluded that the combination of adolescents’ desires to manage their own free time and healthy functioning is not as normative as it is normally thought.Overall, the results from these four studies provide a basis for taking a bi-directional approach to understanding the parent-child relationship during adolescence, and in particular examining the child’s active role in his or her development. Furthermore, two new issues were brought up in the present dissertation, 1) a new interpretation of problem aggregation and 2) a new view of the parent-child relationship during adolescence. Directions for future research, practical implications for adolescents, their parents, and the issue of generality are included in the discussion.

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