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ParentChild Relationships During


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Brett Laursen Willard Andrew Collins

Florida Atlantic University University of Minnesota Twin Cities


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Volume 2: Contextual Influences on Adolescent


Edited By


John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Parent-Clzild Relationships
During Adolescence

No aspect of adolescent development has and long-term relationships with friends,

received more attention from the public and romantic partners, teachers, and other adults,
from researchers than parent-child relation- as well as for individual ~neritalhealth, psy-
ships. Much of the research indicates that chosocial adjustment, school petiormance,
despite altered patterns of interaction, relation- and eventual occupational choice and suc-
ships with parents remain important social and cess. Third, contextual and cultural variations
emotional resources well beyond the child- significantly shape family relationships and
hood years (for recent reviews, see Collins & experiences that, in turn, affect the course
Steinberg, 2006; Smetana, Campione-Barr, and outcomes of development both during and
& Metzger, 2006). Yet it is a challenge to rec- beyond adolescence.
oncile this conclusion with the widespread per- The chapter is divided into four main sec-
ception that parent-child relationships decline tions. The first section outlines theoretical
in quality and influence over the course of the views of parent-adolescent relationships and
adolescent years. The aim of this chapter is to their developmental significance. The second
specify the characteristics and processes of section focuses on the behavior of parents
parent-child relationships that sustain the cen- and children and on interpersonal processes
trality of the family amid the extensive changes between them, with particular attention given
of adolescence. We will argue that it is the con- to the distinctive characteristics of parent-
tent and the quality of these relationships, rather child relationships and how these relationships
than the actions of either parent or adolescent change during adolescence. The third sec-
alone, that determine the nature and extent of tion considers whether and how parent-child
family influences on adolescent development. relationships and their transformations are
We will also argue that divergence between significant for adolescent development. The
academic prescriptions and public perceptions fourth section focuses o n variability in parent-
about parent-adolescent relationships can be child relationships during adolescence as a
traced to the relative emphasis that each places function of structural, economic, and demo-
on potential individual differences. graphic distinctions among families.
The chapter reflects three premises that
have emerged from the sizable literature on THEORIES OF
parent-child relationships during adolescence. PARENT-ADOLESCENT
First, relationships with parents undergo trans- KELATIONSHIPS AND THEIR
formations across the adolescent years that set INFLUENCE
the stage for less hierarchical interactions dur- For heuristic purposes. we have divided theo-
ing adulthood. Second, family relationships ries of parent-adolescent relationships into
have far-reaching implications for concurrent two groups: those that describe changes in
4 Parent-Child Relationships During Adolescence

relationships across the adolescent years and turbulence (Collins, 1995). Conflict should
those that descl-ibe the influence of parenting become less frequent and better managed,
and parent-child relationships. The first set of closeness should increase, and social inter-
theories is dedicated to explaining the signifi- actions should grow more sophisticated and
cant transformations that take place in parent- constructive as a result of transformations in
adolescent relationships. The second set of relationships.
theories is dedicated to explaining the contribu- Psychoanalytic theorists (A. Freud, 1958:
tions that parents and parent-child relationships S. Freud, 192 111949) assumed that hormonal
make to individual adolescent adjustment. changes at puberty give rise to unwelcome
Oedipal urges that foster impulse control prob-
Theories Addressing Relationship lems and anxiety, as well as rebelliousness and
Transformations distance from the family. More recent psycho-
analytic formulations place greater empha-
Conceptual models of transformation in parent-
sis on adolescent autonomy striving and ego
adolescent relationships vary in whether their
identity development than on impulse con-
primary focus is on the adolescent or on the rela-
trol (Blos, 1979: Erikson, 1968). These later
tionship (Laursen & Collins, 2004). The preva-
models converge on the dual contentions that
lent perspective for most of the last century was
awareness of parental fallibility (deidealiza-
that adolescents' physical, cognitive, and social
tion) and psychic emancipation drive a wedge
maturation ~~ndermined patterns of interaction
between parents and children that is exacer-
in close relationships that were established dur-
bated by the inner tutmoil brought on by ado-
ing childhood. The implications of individual
lescent hormonal fluctuations. This account
change varied from one theoretical perspective
implies that heightened conflict and dimin-
to another, the common focus being the relative
ished closeness inevitably follow mati~rational
turbulence and instability of relationships dur-
changes. as adolescents grapple with psychic
ing adolescence relative to those during child-
disturbances. Child withdrawal and disengage-
hood. More recent models emphasize stable
ment should continue into young adulthood,
features of parent-child relationships. Enduring
although a measuse of closeness may be rees-
bonds forged between parents and children are
tablished after parents are no longer perceived
assumed to be the foundation for continuity in
as a threat to the ego. sometime after identity
the functional properties of the relationship that
achievement is complete and intimate relation-
transcend age-related changes in the character-
ships with peers are established.
istics of pasticipants and alterations in the con-
Evolutionary views also emphasize the
tent and form of their interactions.
role of puberty in transforming relationships,
Models of Individual Chaizge but propose that change processes stem from
Theories of individual change focus on dis- physical and cognitive advances that are
ruptions caused by adolescent maturation designed to encourage adolescents to sepa-
and their potential to destabilize parent-child rate from the family in order to seek mates
relationships. These models hold that changes elsewhere (Steinberg, 1989). In this view, ado-
in adolescents provoke changes in families. lescent maturation threatens parental domi-
Maturationist models assume that a period of nance. resulting in heightened conflict with
diminished closeness and heightened conflict and diminished closeness to parents. This
accon~paniesadolescent maturation and that prompts youth to turn away from their family
these perturbations continue until parent-ado- to be comforted by peers who are experiencing
lescent relationships and roles are renegoti- similar relationship disruptions. Some envision
ated. Most ~nodelshold that a rapprochement a reciprocal process, whereby independence
follows this period of normative relationship hastens pubertal maturation and vice versa
Theories of Parent-Adolescent Itelationships and Thcir Influence 5

(BeJsky.Steinberg. & Draper. 199 I ). Althou_eh and the need to adapt to a variety of new situ-
evolutionary views stipulate no nlechanism ations during age-graded transitions. Four
for reestablishing parent-child closeness dur- kinds of moderated rilaturationist models typify
ing young adulthood, i t may be that parental this approach. The first set of models implicates
investmen( i n offspring and the warmth expe- changes in parents as the source of alterations
riencetl in earlier periods provide a foundation in parent-adolescent relationships (Steinberg.
of positive affect and regard that enables both 2001). Parents' developmental issues related to
to transcend the difficulties of adoles- careers. personal gor!ls. and future orientation
cence (Gray 6r Steinberg. 1999). Improved can exacerbate the difficulty of the adjustments
relations s h o ~ ~ lfollow
d the child's transition required in parent-adolescent relationships.
to parenthood to the extent that grandparents Parents are also confronted with diminished or
are interested in providinf resources and assis- extinguished physical and reproductive capabil-
tance to help ensure the survival and reproduc- ities and fading allure at a time when adolescent
tive success of the next generation (Crosnoe & sexuality and attractiveness are blossoming.
Elder, 2002; Smith Bc Drew, 2002). both oi' which may aggravate conflict and dis-
Other maturational rnoclels give cognitive engagement (Steinberg Bc Steinberg, 1994). A
development a central role in parent-adolescent strong orientation toward work and investments
relationship changes. Jn these accounts, in other nonfamilial domains could mean that
advances in abstract and conlplex reasoning parents view adolescents' movement toward
foster a more nuanced appreciation of interper- autonomy as positive, ameliorating some of
sonal distinctions and an increasingly egalitar- the obstacles to relationship transformation
ian view of relationships that were previously (Silverberg & Steinberg, 1990). Reestablishing
oriented around the unilateral authority of positive relationship ties may be difficult for
adults (e.g., Selman. 1980; Yo~lniss& Smollar, those who experience the most disruption, par-
1985). As a result, adolescents increasingly ticularly if parents are unable or unwilling to
aspire to reciprocity and equal power in their address factors in their own lives that exacer-
interactions with parents. The same cognitive bated transitional turmoil.
advances underlie the emerging tendency to Two related theories emphasize the role of
consider certain issues as matters of personal parents' beliefs and expectations in rnoderat-
volition, even though they previously were ing age-related changes in relationships with
under parental jurisdiction (Smetana, 1988). adolescent children. Generalized or category-
Parents' reluctance to transform the hierar- based beliefs nlodels (Eccles, 1992; Holmbeck,
chical relationships established in childhood 1996) posit a straightforward link between
into more egalitarian ones creates conflict and parents' stereotypes and expectations about
curtails closeness. Eventually, familial roles adolescence in general and parents' relations
are renegotiated to acknowledge the child's with their own adolescent children. Beliefs
enhanced status and maturity. Conflict should become a self-fulfilling prophesy: Those who
dissipate as relationship roles and expectations expect adolescence to be a period of turmoil
are realigned. but the long-term implications are more likely to behave in a manner that pro-
for relationship closeness and harmony depend vokes relationship deterioration compared with
on whether parents and children are successfi~l those who expect adolescence to be relatively
in revising their relationship in a mutually sat- benign. The expectancy violation-realignment
isfactory manner. model (Collins, 1995) begins with the assump-
A fourth group of theorists view physical and tion that interactions between parents and chil-
cognitive maturation as sources of constraints clren are mediated by cognitive and en~otional
and demands on adolescents but give equal processes associated with expectancies about
emphasis to changes in social expectations the behavior of the other person. In periods
6 Parent-Child Relationships During Adolesce~lce

of rapid developmental change, such as the which firstborn and later born children share
transition to adolescence, parents' expec- the burden of conflict and role renegotiation.
tancies often are violated. In younger age Relationships between parents and "me too"
groups, change may occur more gradually, so children should be more resilient because first-
that discrepancies are both less common and borns are apt to bear the brunt of negativity
less salient than in periods of rapid multiple with parents and because younger children may
changes, such as adolescence. Expectancy vio- continue to look to parents to satisfy more of
lations are assumed to be a source of conflict their emotional needs (Whiteman, McHale, &
that eventually stimulates parents to realign Crouter, 2003).
their expectations. It follows that changes A related theory also postulates birth order
in the tenor of parent-child relationships over differences in changes in parent-adolescent
the course of adolescence will vary as a function relationships. 'The learning-from-experience
of the accuracy of parental expectations; those model argues that parents hone their skills
with unrealistic expectations should experience with firstborn children and are thus better
frequent violations and more relationship dis- able to cope constructively with developmen-
ruption than those with accurate expectations. tal changes in later born children (Whiteman
Expectancies should also shape relationship et a]., 2003). According to this view, it is the
recovery. Parents who foresee improved rela- magnitude of parent-child transitions that dif-
tions, particularly those who anticipate altered fers between firstborns and later borns, not
expressions of relationship closeness, are more the timing of change. Declines in warmth and
likely to successfully repair relationships than increases in conflict should be greater for par-
those who expect irreparable damage and those ents and firstborn children than for parents
who expect a return to the perceived tranquil- and later born children because parents have
ity of childhood. learned how to navigate transitions during
The second set of moderated maturation- adolescence. Improved parenting skills should
ist models implicates changes in parent-older not only minimize relationship disruption but
sibling relationships in alterations in parent- should also help relationships with later born
younger sibling relationships. Models differ in children recover more quickly and perhaps
terms of their postulated consequences for more satisfactorily than relationships with
younger siblings. According to the spillover firstborn children.
model, changes in relations between first- The third moderated maturationist model
born children and parents dictate the timing of implicates parent and child gender in changes
changes in relations between later born chil- in parent-child relationships. The gender inten-
dren and parents (Larson & Almeida, 1999). sification model argues that with the onset of
Relationships with later born children deterio- puberty, parents increasingly assume responsi-
rate and are renegotiated concurrent with (or bility for the socialization of same-sex offspring
shortly after) relationships with firstborn chil- (Hill & Lynch, 1983). The original model sug-
dren. Thus, child maturation is more strongly gested that parent-child closeness increases
related to parent-child relationship change in same-sex dyads and decreases in other-sex
in firstborn than in later born adolescents. dyads. Another possibility, however, is that
Several mechanisms besides child maturation same-sex parent-child relationships become
may be responsible for changes in relation- closer than other-sex relationships because,
ships between later born children and parents, although absolute levels of closeness decline in
including sibling modeling and imitation, and both, the latter deteriorates more than the former.
a parental desire to avoid differential treat- The model also has implications for parent-child
ment. Parent-adolescent relationship decline conflict: With the advent of puberty, same-sex
and recovery may depend on the extent to parent-child relationships should experience
Theories of Parent-Adolescent Relationships and Their Influence 7

oreater tu~inoil than other-sex relationships, ~ ~ n d e r ggradual

o developmental transforma-
as conflict and role negotiation are focused on tions, but these changes are consistent with the
the parent who has most of the socialization underlying quality of the relationship, which
responsibilities Notwithstanding these differ- tends to be durable (Ainsworth, 1989).
ent interpretations, there is general agreement Attachment i n adolescence is distinc-
that by the end of the adolescent year:, children tive fro111 attachment in earlier I-elationships,
should have better relations with their same-sex both behaviorally and cognitively. Strong
parent than with their other-sex parent. emotional ties to parents may be indicated in
The fourth moderated maturationist model subtle and private ways, including friendly
inlplicates schools and other extrafa~nilial teasing and small acts of concern, as well as
peer settings in alterations in parent-adoles- in more obvious connections such as shared
cent relationships (Simmons & Blyth, 1987). activities (particularly with fathers) and self-
According to this view, maturity-related disclosure (particularly to mothers). Cognitive
expectations vary across peer contexts, accel- advances in adolescence make possible
erating or delaying demands for realign- an integrated, overarching view regarding
ing relationships with parents. Settings that experiences that involve caregiving, care-
encourage contact between early adolescents taking, and confidence in the availability
and late adolescents may elicit parent-child of significant others (Allen & Land, 1999).
relationship disturbance earlier than settings Consequently, whereas younger children view
that limit contacts to same-age adolescents attachment in terms that are more specific to
because the former may prompt young adoles- the parent-child relationship. adolescents are
cents to seek greater rights and privileges than increasingly attuned to the similarities and dif-
the latter. Thus, exposure to older peers may ferences between relationships with parents,
hasten the onset of parent-child relationship other significant adults, friends, and romantic
change and lengthen the period of estrange- partners.
ment and heightened conflict with parents. The functions of attachment relation-
Reestablishing positive parent-child relation- ships for adolescents, however, are parallel to
ships after early, off-time transformations may those for young children. In both cases. parents
be difficult in cases where closeness was dis- serve as a secure base for exploring the environ-
continued prematurely and followed by a pro- ment. Whereas security facilitates the toddler's
longed period of discord and dissatisfaction. exploration of the immediate environment,
security affords the adolescent a sense of
Models of Relationship Contirzuity confidence in family support for explorations
Some models of parent-adolescent relation- outside of the family, including the forma-
ships focus on forces that promote stability tion of new relationships. Security also allows
within the dyad, rather than on the impact adolescents an opportunity to explore intellec-
of individual change on the dyad. The most tual and emotional autonomy from the family,
prominent example, attachment theory. which includes the realization that parents are
emphasizes the strong emotional ties between fallible and an appreciation of the advantages
parents and adolescents. As a mutually regu- of amicably resolving disagreements (Allen
lated system, parents and children work jointly et al., 2003). Put simply. the form of secure
to maintain the relationship in a manner con- base behavior changes with age but the func-
sistent with cognitive representations derived tion remains essentially the same.
from their history of interactions with signifi- A key implication of attachment formula-
cant others (Bowlby, 1969). Thus, the quality tions is that relationship reorganization occurs
of parent-child relationships is presumed to he gradually. Adolescents and parents with a
stable over time. Manifestations of attachment history of sensitive, responsive interactions
8 Parent-Child Kclationships During Adolescence

uicl strong emotional bonds should main- ~nentalschemas that shape expectations con-
tain these positive Seati~restli~.ougliout ado- cerning future interactions.
lesce~ice. a l t l i o ~ ~ ~s~~pportive
h inte~':~ctioris Cognitive advances cluring adolescence
mxy be reformulated as the child matures. give rise to ;I realization that the rules of reci-
Atlolescen[s and parents with a history of clif- procity arid social exchange govern interac-
flicull. L I I ~ I - ~ S [ I O I interactions
~S~\,~ are also likely tions with friends but not parents (Youniss &
to experience continuity in the quality of their Smol1:lr. 1985). Greater autonomy provides
interactions. Disniissi\ie youth may seek to an inzpetus for adolescents to seek changes
distance themselves from parents as soon as in relationships with parents so that interac-
possible, whereas preoccupied youth may be tions incorporate many of the same principles
~uiwillingor unable to embrace demands for of social exchange. Although tlie affiliation
greater autonomy made by parents. These remains involunt;~ry 01- obligatory. there is
families may experience an increase in con- great variability in the degree to which parents
flict and a decline in warnith. but this does not and children remain interconnected during late
necessarily signal worsening relationships. but adolescence arid early adulthood. To the extent
may instead represent a new manifestation of that affiliations become increasingly voliuitary,
insecurity. Attachment theory does not t-~tle exchanges may be revised to better reflect their
out the possibility that increasing adolescent costs and benefits to participants. The magni-
autonomy may give rise to rnodcst age-related tude of change depends on the potential for
changes in the frequency with which affection children to lead independent lives: Children
and disagreement ;ire expressed. but these (of all ages) who are utterly dependent on their
changes are thought to reflect shifts in forms parents are less likely to insist upon equitable
of expression, not in the fundamental quality of exchanges than cliilclr-en who are (potentially)
relationships between parents and children self-sufficient.
(Allen & Land. 1999; Allen & Manning, 2007; Patterns of communication and interde-
Carlivati & Collins, 2007). Greater signifi- pendence established during childhood are
cance is attached to the tenor of interactions assumed to carry forward into adolescence. As
between parents and children and the degree to the child becomes more autonomous, the
which participants treat each other with mutual degree to which parent-child relationships
regard. These and other indices of relationship change depends 013 the degree to which pal--
quality are directly tied to attachment security. ticipants consider their exchanges to be fair,
Stability in attachnient security implies stabil- which is closely linked to perceptions of rela-
ity in relationship cl~~ality both over time and tionship quality (Laursen & Collins, 2004).
across individuals. Increased conflict may occur in poor quality
Similar predictions characterize develop- relationships. along with a decline in closeness,
mental applications of interdepenclence and as adolescents express a growing dissatisfac-
social relations models (Laursen 8r Bukowski. tion with i~nequaltreatment and unfavorable
1997: Reis, Collins, & Berscheid. 2000). outcomes (Smetana, 1999). Participants in
Interdependence is a hallmark of all close rela- these relationships are usually i l l equipped to
tionships ant1 is manifested in Sseq~~ent, strong, navigate these challenges because they lack
and diverse interconnections maintained over a history of collaborative interactions and a
an extended time (Kelley et al.. 1983). In an constructive process for resolving disputes.
intcrdcpendent relationship. partners engage in High-cluality relationships, however, may
mutually inf uential exchanges and shalt the change little during aclolescence. or may even
belief that their connections are reciprocal ant1 imp~.o\ie.its participants build o n beneficent
enduring. These e n d u r i n ~interconnections are interactions [o adjust exchanges i n a ~iiutually
internalized by participants ancl organized into sa1isfacto1.yInnnner. In sum. patterns of social
Theories of' Parent-Adolescent Relationships and Their Influence 9

exchange in close relationships are resistant t o Modes of Irlflrre~rce

change b e c a ~ ~ they
s e are sustained by a web of Approaches that describe modes of influence
interdependencies. When adolescents p ~ s hto attempt to trace the paths through which par-
revise illteractions with parents, change comes ents shape child outcomes. Theories tend to
slowly and in a manner that typically extends be written in terms of concepts and processes,
trajectories of relationship quality from ante- using the vocabulary of ordinary language.
cedent periods. This differs from tests of hypotheses. which
Inrerplay between continuiry and discon- model links anions variables using analytic
tinuity is a feature of parentxhild relation- terms. Consequently, the conceptual r rid el-pin-
ships across the life span. Most models of nings of analytic models of modes of influ-
parent-adolescent relationships acknowledge ence tend to be implicit rather than explicit.
this interplay; few emphasize one without the An explication of these analytic assumptions
other. Our depiction of models in terms of their follows.
relative emphasis on relationship change and Perhaps the most obvious distinction in the
stability obscures many theoretical subtleties, analytic approach is that between correlated
but it underscores an important conceptual dis- paths and causal paths. Some may be surprised
tinction. Theories that focus on individual that this issue remains a point of contention,
development inevitably emphasize universal given the extensive literature on parentxhild
changes in adolescents and their conconiitant relationships, but the issue continues to gener-
effects on relationships with parents. Theories ate vigorous and legitimate debate. The argu-
that focus on relationship development ment that parent socialization contributes little
inevitably focus on distinctive trajectories of to child outcomes hinges largely on the asser-
parent-child relationships and their continuity tion that ( I ) most research on the topic is corre-
with prior relationship f ~ ~ n c t i o n i nThese
g. dif- lational; (2) causal designs yield sparse effects;
ferent orientations have important implications and (3) genetically informed designs attribute
for models that describe the role parent-child minimal variance in child outcomes to shared
relationships play in adolescent outcomes. environments (Harris, 1998). Scholars making
the case that parents play an important role in
Conceptual Models of the Influence child outcomes respond that ( I ) nonexperi-
of Parents and Parent-Child mental longitudinal designs reveal meaning-
Relationships on Adolescent ful changes in child outcomes a s a function of
Development antecedent parent influence: (2) natural experi-
In this section we summarize conceptual mod- ments and interventions reveal pronounced
els that address associations between parents, effects for parenting; and (3) traditional studies
parent-child relationships, and adolescent of heredity overlook gene-environment interac-
development. Most models share the assump- tions and correlations, thereby underestimating
tion that parents (and relationships with par- parent socialization effects (Collins, Maccoby,
ents) shape adolescent outcomes, but there is Steinbelg. Hetherington. & Bornstein. 2000).
little agreement on the particulars. We begin Both sides agree that little new can be learned
with a description of the various modes of from cross-sectional. correlational studies of
influence, followed by an overview of pro- parent behaviors and child outcomes.
posed influence mechanisms. We then discuss In the most frequently proposed and tested
hypotheses concerning the direction and mag- models, parenting or parent-adolescent rela-
nitude of influence attributable to parents and tionships are treated as predictor variables.
parent-child relationships, closing with a sum- Strictly speaking. parents are posited to be
mary of theories describing developmental causal influences in these models, pal-ticularly
variations in patterns of influence. (as is usualiy the case) when paths are not
re\,ersed to consider parent behaviors as out- consequence. co~lte~nporaryapproaches rec-
come variables. Int'luence paths tilay be direct ognize the need for multiple niethodologies to
or niediated. Direct paths iriiply that changes pull apart va~.iublesthat typically go together
in parent behaviors or in parent-adolescent (Rutter. Pickles. Murray. & Eaves. 2001).
re1:ltionships are responsible for changes in Althougli few dispute thc conclusion that
adolescent outcomes, whereas indirect paths genes shape child outcomes, the clain~that non-
sugsest that parent variables act on proxi- shared environmental effects outweigh shared
mal variables (e.g., honle environment) that. environmental effects (Plornin & Daniels,
in turn, lii~veconsequences for youth devel- 1987) has been challenged for several reasons
opment. Mediated models havc also been (Turkheinier R: Waldron. 2000). Sampling and
proposed i n which parent variables serve as methodological biascs tend to favor genetic
~nediators.typically between contextual vari- and nonshared influences at the expense of
itbles (e.g., neighborhood distress) and adoles- shared influences. The assessment of individ-
cent outconles. ual level variation overlooks population level
Linear and nonlinear relations between variation, failing to recognize that beneficial
parent \iariables and adolescent development parenting behaviors common across individu-
have been proposed for both direct and niedi- als may be invariant, but are influential nev-
ated models. In linear models, incremental ertheless. Further, sibling differences are not
changes in parenting or in parent-adolescent necessarily due to nonfamilial influences;
relationships are associated with commensu- differential perceptions and differential treat-
rate changes in adolescent outcomes. In non- ment arise within shared environments. Thus,
linear models, the effects of the parent variable genetically informed models remind us that
are not constant across its range. Often, the heritability accounts for much of the variance
relation posited is one in which parenting or that might otherwise be ascribed to the direct
parent-adolescent relationships have linear effects of parental socialization, but they are
(or cven exponential) effects below a certain somewhat limited in their ability to disen-
threshold, but above that threshold, effects of tangle shared from nonshared environmental
the parent variable are weak, nonexistent, or effects.
reversed (HolT, Laursen, & Bridges, in press). Further pressure on eithel-/or views of influ-
Consider parent-adolescent conflict, which is ence comes from models of bidirectional
thought to be beneficial at moderate levels. but influence. Several such models have been
dctri~nentalat high levels (Adams & Laursen. proposed (see Kuczynski, 2003, for review).
2007). Analytic models are not always as they These models share the common assumption
appear: Studies that focus on one part of the that children and parents are unicjue social-
range of a parenting variable (e.g., harsh par- ization agents who construct meaning out of
enting) and ignore differences outside that their social experiences and who initiate pur-
range iniplicitly model nonlinear or threshold poseful behavior intended to influence the part-
cffects, despite the appearance of testing a ner (Kuczynski & Parkin, 2006). Transactional
simple linear nod el. models emphasize continual change in chil-
Direct and mediated parental effects may dren and parents i n response to recurring.
be ascl-ibed to heredity and to socialization. reciprocal inlet-chanses (Sameroff, 1975). One
The once common practice of assessing effects partner responds to the other's behavior, and
with all additive model that apportions unique the response influences the form of his or her
variance to genes (plus error), shared envi- subsequent behavior. Transactional models are
ronments (parent influence), and nonsharecl not linear in the sense that stable behaviors in
environments (nonparental influence) has one partner cause stable outcomes in the other:
given way to more nuanced strategies. As a they depict a dialectic ot' constantly changing
Theories of Pa rent-Adolescent Relationships and Their Influence 11

dynamics that fosters qualitative change in the influence or a meaningful outco~neat some
relationship and its participants. In contrast. point in a causal sequence. Direct effects mod-
circular causality models typically imply lin- els imply that parents cause subsequent adoles-
ear, microanalytic influences that contain a cent outcomes. Mediated effects models imply
recLlrsive loop ill which cause and effect can- that parents cause change in an intermediary
not be isolated. In one example, difficult child agent, which, in turn, causes change in ado-
temperament and inept parenting combine to lescent outcomes. Bidirectional models imply
foster a vicious cycle of escalating coercion that parent behaviors are both the cause and the
(Patterson, 1982). Finally, fit and coevolution consequence of child behaviors. In contrast.
models suggest that causality is located not correlated change models argue that parent
in the interactions between parents and chil- influences are limited to genetic contributions
dren, but in the system they construct and and to external causal factors that are either
the degree to which their attributes and needs correlated with or responsible for the parent
mesh (Thomas, Chess, & Birch, 1977). Linear behaviors that are linked to child outcomes.
effects may be hypothesized as a function of
goodness-of-fit, or qualitative distinctions may Agents of I~lfluence
be made according to the salient features of Models that assume participant driven effect$,
parents and children. typically from parents to offspring, are still
In another type of model, parent variables the primary framework for research on
serve as moderators. These models typically parent-adolescent relationships (Collins, 2002).
start from the premise that there are qualitative They stem from an implicitly individualistic
differences between groups. As a consequence, approach that focuses on associations between
associations between predictor variables and differences among the properties of individu-
outcome variables differ for those who expe- als and differences among their behaviors
rience different types of parents or relation- and outcomes. Models that describe relation-
ships. Parenting styles provide an example. ship driven effects are not uncommon, how-
Authoritative parents differ from authoritarian ever, and research designs increasingly adopt
parents on a constellation of attributes that com- this perspective (Laursen & Collins, 2004).
bine to create distinct child-rearing environments Relationship-focused models reflect a systemic
(Baumrind, 1991; Darling & Steinberg, 1993). approach that focuses on associations between
Within each, similar parent behaviors may elicit differences among the properties of relation-
different outcomes. For instance, adolescents ships or systems of relationships and differ-
with authoritative parents may be less likely ences among the behaviors and outcomes of
to dissemble in response to parental requests individuals (Reis. Collins, & Berscheid, 2000).
for information than adolescents with authori- Early conceptions of family influence
tarian parents (Darling, Cumsille, Caldwell, & focused exclusively on parents: The parent cast
Dowdy, 2006). Parent moderators may enhance a social mold for the child, which was respon-
risk for some youth and buffer against adversity sible for his or her development (Collins,
for others. Some argue that authoritarian par- 2002). Few today would advocate this position
ents may buffer against detrin~entalpeer influ- conceptually, but research designs tell another
ences for youth in troubled neighborhoods, but story. Despite the growing acceptance of
the same parents may alienate youth in benign child-centered, relationship, and bidirectional
settings, inadvertently promoting fraternization frameworks, most research designs still entail
with other alienated youth (Furstenberg. Cook, the straightforward prediction of adolescent
Eccles. Elder, & Sameroff, 1999). outcomes from parent behavior. Prominent in
All of the foregoing models invoke parenting this regard are studies of parenting styles and
or parent-child relationships as a substantive parenting practices, and other topic5 that that
12 Parent-Child Relationships During Adolescence

have recently come to dominate the research both participants; those that do typically provide
landscape, such as parent psychological con- biased or misspecified results. Recent advances
trol. Most learning theory models of coercive in dyadic data analyses can overcome these
training, inept parenting, and deviant model- limitations, which will help to bridge the gap
ing also fall into this category; the contribu- betweell theory and research (Card. Little. &
tions made by temperamental difficulties in Selig, 2008; Kenny, Kashy, & Cook, 2006). It is
offspring have been added to recent formu- important to note that although dyadic analytic
lations, but the research is overwhelmingly techniques were initially developed to describe
parent-driven. pal-titularly as it applies to the the influence of one partner on another over the
second decade of life. course of a specific interchange, they have been
Child-driven or evocative models have successfully applied to global perceptions of
greater currency in the study of young children concurrent parent-adolescent relationships.
than in the study of adolescents. In these mod- including attachment security (Cook & Kenny,
els, offspring with certain characteristics or 2005) and perceived social support (Branje, van
behaviors elicit particular responses from par- Lieshout. BL van Aken, 2005). Modifications
ents, which, in turn, shape child outcomes. The for longitudinal data have been proposed that
development of antisocial behavior in tem- will permit the analyses of nonindependent
peramentally difficult chilclren is one example. data across multiple time points (Kashy &
Parents tend to respond to disruptive, aggres- Donnellan, 2008; Laursen, Popp, Burk, Ken;
sive children by withdrawing affection and & Stattin, 2008).
reducing monitoring, which increases the risk Relationship models start from the premise
of alienation and affiliation with deviant peers that parent-child relationships are more than
(Lytton, 2000). Child-driven models applied to the sum of the child's behavior and the parent's
adolescence typically focus on the influence behavior. As a consequence, relationships are
of personality and emotional regulation. One hypothesized to be important influence agents.
recent model suggests that adolescent open- Relationship influence mechanisms range
ness and disclosure elicits parent behaviors from global indices of relationship quality
that are i~suallyoperationalized as monitoring (such as attachment security and support), to
(Kerr, Stattin, & Pakalniskiene, 2006). In this composites that describe positive and nega-
view, parent reactions to adolescent engage- tive attributes of the relationship, to specific
ment and withdrawal shape subsequent adoles- features of the relationship (such as communi-
cent outcomes and behaviors. This may strike cation and cohesion). Direct links are hypoth-
some as circular causality, but the process is esized between relationship quality and child
clearly categorized as child driven. outcomes, on the assumption that positive
Considerable interest surrounds bidirec- relationships are beneficial to development
tional models that address concurrent and and negative relationships are detrimental.
over-time influences between children and par- Relationship experiences are also filtered
ents. These models include child-driven effects through relationship perceptions, which serve
and parent-driven effects, but it is one thing to as a lens through which the child interprets the
hypothesize a model in which both participants environment. This suggests an indirect effects
in a relationship are agents of influence, and it is model in which perceived relationship qual-
another thing to apply this model to actual data. ity partially or wholly mediates associations
Statistical obstacles have long plagued efforts between parent behavior and child outcomes.
to identify bidirectional effects as scholars have
struggled to test reciprocal and joint influences Developnierztal Patterns of I~zflz~ence
(Laursen, 2005). Most conventional analytic Conventional wisdom holds that parental
procedures cannot easily incorporate data from influence wanes across the teen years relative
Theories of Parent-Adolescent Relationships and Their Inflnence 13

to peer influences. Plat0 q~lOteS Socrates's adolescent years. Curvilinear models of peer
lament about the youth of his time: "They influence have also been advocated (Devereux.
have bad manners. contempt for authority; 1970). According to this view, adolescents are
they show disrespect for their elders and love especially vulnerable to peer pressure during
,-hatter in place of' exercise." More recently, the process of identity formation because, in the
~ ~ ~ ~ f ~ n b r e (n1970)
l l e l . observed that ado- absence of a clear sense of self. they look to
lescent concern with and conformity to peer age-mates for guidance. Susceptibility to peer
norms increases with age as the school structure prcssure purportedly declines in late adoles-
becomes Inore impersonal. That is, as schools cence with a rise in autonorno~~s thought. In
get larger and contact with teachers becomes keeping with the notion of donlain specific-
nlore superficial. youth band together to form ity, different curvilinear trajectories may apply
their own culture; social pressures within the to different outcomes (Berndt, 1979). For
peer group increase, gradually eclipsing that instance, normative increases in delinquent
exerted by adults. Similar claims of declining activity between early and mid-adolescence
parental influence accompany theories of par- should accompany increases in peer pressure to
ent deidealization (Blos, 1979). According to experiment with deviant behavior; these pres-
this view, identity development and individu- sures subside by late adolescence and so does
ation require youth to separate from their par- the prestige of youth engaged in delinquent
ents. As adolescents recognize that parents are acts. Similar developmental trends would not
not infallible, they increasingly question and be anticipated in peer pressure concerning
resist parent influence attempts. This creates internalizing problems or prosocial behavior.
an influence vacuum, which tends to be filled Berndt (1999) offers an important caveat to
by peers. the coda. It is typically ass~lmedthat parents
But other scholars have noted that influ- and peers are opposing sources of influence.
ence is not necessarily a zero-sum proposition. Adolescents are thought to be buffeted between
According to this view, parent influence is not the competing interests of family and friends.
necessarily tied to peer influence (Brittain, An alternative scenario holds that parents and
1963). If absolute levels of intluence are unre- peers are generally complementary sources
lated across relationships, change in influence of influence, providing a consistent message
accorded to one relationship does not neces- concerning adolescent behavior. Parents are
sarily prompt change in influence accorded hypothesized to have considerable direct and
to another. It follows that when peers become indirect leverage over the child's selection of
more influential, parents do not necessarily friends (Parke & Buriel, 2006). so we should
become less influential. In other words, the expect parents to encourage youth to befriend
influence of parents may not decline in abso- those who share their values. Another possibil-
lute terms over the course of the adolescent ity holds that parent and peer iniluences are
years, although it may decline relative to that distinct during the early adolescent years, as
of peers. A more nuanced version of this model adolescents struggle to establish and maintain
holds that developmental changes in influence unique identities, but that parent and peer rela-
are domain specific (Kandel & Lesser, 1972). tionships (and their influence) become gradu-
Different developmental patterns of intluence ally more integrated over time (Collins &
may arise for different outcomes. For instance, Laursen, 3000). After youth establish an inde-
Peer influence may increase over matters such pendent sense of self, sometime during mid-
as attire but not over matters such as future adolescence. peer group cohesion should
career aspirations. decline and adolescents should spend more
The models described thus far portray a tirne in mixed-sex cliques and with roman-
steady growth i n peer influence across the tic partners. By late adolescence, family and
I'r-;~riii.\\.oik.\ ~ , l ~ i c~ l; iI I I111ahcilre e.,tim;ition of'
cl'lkct ~ i / e slesk 1l1a11\t~-;ii~liri'ol.fia~-d. i:t'.ft'c~s
I.oI. ;11i>,(111~:~ ; I I , I I ~ L I I ; I I . i~il'l!~c~ic:~~p:itI~211.eI X ~ ~ I I I C I
r(' he \ I I I ; \ I I :,I.ic!. \ ; I I ~ : I I I ~ Ii.\? p ; ~ ~ ~ i ~ iiicro\s
\,a~.ial~lt.> :ilicl ~ - t l a t i o ~ i s lpa~-ricilxiiitx
l~p (Sasih &
S:ITOLI.~I. 100.3 1. 0 1 i c ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ l h i c oSte11 I ~ ? r ,I.).vcI.-
:Il(ig~~itl!dc o f 'i / l / l ~ r e i ! c . e loohrcl is ihiir 1iioc1:l~ oiti.11 dict;r~ctlic .;clcc-
01itiI ~~c:ceritI!~. \lie ~ i o i i ~t.l ~i ~ni tp:l~.e~iti~ig \)la! t ~ l (ion o l ' c ; ~ n i t ~ - n i tE\.ciit-ha\eil
\. cc)listl.lrcts may
:I h i s ~ ~ i t ' i c iI-olc ~ ~ j ~ill a ~ l o l i ~ \ c e0~11co1iiv\ ~i~ he Ie\s i>l.ti~-lc.1 0 I>i:~sh'oin relaiionsliip c v g l ~ i -
\4 :I:, 1;1I,cn iiw g r i i n ~ ~ bEl ~ i cn. ~ocli~!,.~~I'ter- t\h o lions hut. :is :r ~~oljhcclucni~c. Ilic!' :!re Icss I-cli--
~lt.~.:lci~~s 0 1 c.1 icler~cc\irg~;stirig riiai Iicreclit! ahlc and li(>(\01' ontcolnts ( BUI-lr.
~ I L C O L I I I~~ SO :II \ i ~ l > ~ i i ~ ~ ~ i i~l > O I - ~01:I ~ )the
i II ~. O I I \ LII-I- !lcnnisscn. i : : ~ iI>ool-~:. ~ B1-:11i,jc.C;: L,:~l~r\e~i. in
L I I ~ C C~ J - cj o\ ~ ~ \ l~isc~~il>ecl
y to p ~ i r c l t t i ~ i~~ gis. htiil 111-ess).c o ~ i s ~ ~ thi~t - ~ ~:ire c t ~11i;Iily st:~Lili,iilso
t~nnsu;il I O s ~ ~c ~ i o ( I etll ls; l t h!lpotllesi;:e cf'fcc.~ lend ro \,iclci small cl'f'ccts h c c a ~ ~ stlic!, c h;r\~t:
si~i.5.?'he I'ocu I . ~ I I I : Iaclilal'el), ~ I ~ S o n ;t;~tistical insul'l'icient vari~ihility to predict chalige in
igliilic;inetl. ~ v i t hlittlc 01.I I O discussion ;~boill r~Llt(:ome \,,ari:ihlcs. F;israll!;. systerliic models
~ ~ ~ l i e t l iIi~rge
r l . 01- sli~;ill etfects are es!,ectc~l. are i ~ p tlo yield Srcatel- el't'ecls ~Iiariindividu-
7 ' 1 1 ~ a1.e1 ~ ~Irian): f o o d r e : ~ s o ~to~ sconsider the ::listic models hecausc the iul.mcr encompass a
~ n a g l . ~ i f ~of~ delf'ects.
c~ First, if there is n o cori- \vidcr range o f variables tlian tlie latter. By the
ceptual distinction between strong trends and s:inle toI;eli, interpreting systenlic eff'ects can
v,;enli tr-ends, Illere is no i~icc.nti\~e to considel- be more clil'iicult than interpreting intlivid~r-
the magnitircle of' a particuiur tl.cnd. Second. alistic e l f c c ~ sbec;iuse influerlce niech:inis~ns
~ ~ i o d c lthats f'i~il to tiistinguish \vcak effects :nay bc less obvious.
~ I - O I ~ Istro~ig,effects suggesl a siniple main- A final point is that theories of elationsh ship
effects ~noclcl in which pulcnts cxcrf uniform transSor~n;ition havc implications for models
inllilcncc over- :ill aspects ol' adolescent dc\~el- of parent influence on adolescent outcomes.
opmcnt. Weal; 01. ~ L I I IeSikc~sare counteriac- Conceptuali~,ationsthat c~nphasizechange in
t~ralto thi\ 111-oposilio1l.wliich leaves the door pal-ent-child relationships in response to [he
open [o the ~issertionthat parents don't ~liwtter. maturation of tlie chiltl d o not speak directly to
'Thild. those ~ n o d e l sthat do not. iinticipate the patterns of atlolescent a d ~ u s t ~ n e nbecause t an
relati\ie stl.criglh of parent cf'fects tell us only accounting o i normalive changes experienced
~;hetliei-pal.clits make contributions to out- by all yo~ltlicannol ;rnticip;~tei~iclividuaidif-
conles but are of little use in explaining when ferences in outcomes. ,4ppl-oaches that ernpha-
~ t l ~ wliy
il ~Iiesccontributio~isal-e important. siye i\ndul.ilig charac[eristics 01' I-ela~ionsliips
Conccptu:tl r-nodcls llold prncticill and \la- slioultl help to explain palterns ol' adolescent
tis:ical implications l i rcse;ircli. ~ Moderated acij~lstrnenthecause they arc predicirted on the
er'fccrs ; ~ n d~ i o ~ i l i n eeil'ec~s. i ~ ~ - which asc cell- notio~ithal some p;ll-cnrs and soriic relatio~l-
tral :(I Inally conlelnporar.y moclels. arc djl'fi- s h i l 7 ~ 1 1 .berter e ecl~lil~l>cd than ot1iel.s I O hell)
cull lo clt:tcc! \viihollr l a r ~ es a n ~ p l e(Fl-itz & cl?ilclrcli s~~iccssl'ully 11:1\,i2aletiic challenges
I V ~ ; I C K ~ I I I3007). I O I I . I;~i~.thei-~nor.c. 11ie)t typi- of ;~dolcsccnce.
cally >,ielcl small efl'ccts. Scholars who aclopl X/lal~l~'ational ~~ioclcls nL;sllmt. that :\I1 l'ali~i-
Ihrsc motlcls I T ~ L I be S ~ ~)rc'l>x~'eci to :lr.yllc thal lies i*xl~ericncc3 pcriocl of Iicigh~enedi.onflict
statiilic;rl p ~ . o ~ . i ~ t l u~i'lid ~ - c \ to ~inder.c\~inia~c anil tiiiili~lishcclcloicness associated \\:it11 ado-
tli~-i~ ~- i i i ~ ~ n 01.i ~ clw ~ ~ d(lc\
c ljo\i ~ ~ i i : i I l lewent j>Il)~sic;il; ~ n d roylii!i~,ccli:~clopmc~il.
ci'i'ccts l i ; . ~ \ili-~po~.t;irii
.~ iniplic:~tion\l o r dc\-rl- flilf'ercnct..\ i n ac!j~lstriicnt oiltconics rn;i!. L~c.
~ , I ~ I I IB ~ iI ~~ ~I ~. ! ~ e c r i~oi ~ iw i : i~cIw ~ l~~i dto I)? tc\te(j ~I-:ICCCI Lo IIIC c~~.te~lf to ~ ~ \ ~ l i ~ ~ii:itr~r:~tio~i
c:l-~ is IIOI--
n.i!lii~iI: jxitli 01. S I I . I ! ~ I L I I - ;cI ~~ ~ ! ~ ; i ~ i o ~ i - ~ ~ ~ oriiitri\c. clcI~~ hot11 i ~ i l l It\ cor1i.c. ;11icl it5 tinling. 7'1ie
Interpersonal Processes and Relationship Perceptions 15

notion that adolescence is a period of norma- picture of the relationship: we must also con-
tive distllrbance (Blos. 1979; A. Freud, 1958: sider how participants perceive their own
Hall, 1904) stands in contrast with more recent behavior and that of their partner. There are
assertions that youth whose physical develop- systematic differences between parents and
ment is internally asynchronous (e.g.. pubertal children in perceptions of their relationship.
maturation in the absence of emotional matu- There are also individual differences in views
ration) and youth who are off-time relative of relationships. Put simply, interactions differ
to peers are at risk for adjustment difficulties across relationships and tliese interactions are
(Simmons & Blpth, 1987). The general prem- interpreted differently by parents and children.
ise that variation in parenting and parent-child and by individuals with specific attributes. In
relationships is a product of adolescent devel- this section we will describe these behavioral
opment, rather than a cause of maladaptive and perceptual differences and discuss some of
development, contrasts with theories of rela- their ramifications.
tionship continuity. These latter models do Most of the developmental research on
not assume that adolescence is inevitably a parent-child relationships has focused on iden-
time of troubled parent-child relationships. tifying aspects of the relationship that are sub-
Rather, they are predicated on the view that ject to change and to charting the course of
parenting and parent-child relationships at these normative alterations. As is the case in
the outset of adolescence anticipate changes relationships generally, parent-adolescent dyads
in individual adjustment over the course of vary in the content or kinds of interactions;
adolescence: Youth in secure, supportive rela- the patterning, or distribution of positive and
tionships should experience few difficulties negative exchanges; the quality, or the degree
coping with maturational changes. Youth in of responsiveness that each shows to the other;
poor quality relationships may lack resources and the cognitive and emotional responses of
to cope with maturation and thus may expe- each individual toward the partner and his or
rience an upsurge in interpersonal difficulties her behavior. In this section, we will describe
that heighten the risk of adjustment problems. continuity and change in parentxhild relation-
These difficulties do not spring up overnight. ships during adolescence and review the avail-
Escalating conflict and emotional alienation able evidence concerning age-related trends
are thought to be symptomatic of relationship in parent and adolescent behaviors and per-
distress that is evident in the years leading up ceptions as well as individual differences that
to adolescence. affect them.

INTERPERSONAL PROCESSES Parents and Adolescents as

AND RELATIONSHIP Relationship Participants and
PERCEPTIONS as Relationship Reporters
These theoretical views underscore a fun- Thirty years ago, Olson (1977) made an
damental but often neglected point: Despite in~portantdistinction between insider and out-
a long-standing orientation to the impact of sider views of the family. The point is worth
parental actions, the significance of relation- repeating (and the chapter is worth reread-
ships with parents derives from joint action ing). because it contains many subtle dis-
patterns. The meaning of most parental actions tinctions that tend to be lost or overlooked.
depends on the history of interactions between There is widespread acknowledgment that
parent and adolescent and the immediate con- family members experience family relation-
text of the action of each toward the other ships differently. But what, exactly, does this
(Maccoby. 1992). This suggests that a focus on mean? For starters. it means that mothers.
behavior alone provides a less-than-complete fathers, and adolescent children have different
16 1':irellt-<:hilt1 Kcl:itio~~ships

esj~cc~ations at30~1ttlleis rel~~tionsliips. F;~thers ani~nosity(Gonzales, CaucP. Sr Mason. I9?6).

c\lwct the fi:~iiilytu be a respite from \vo~.k: This is not to say that observer reports are
1no1Iie1.qariticipi~tchmily obligations to be a unhelpful. There are many iniportuit uses fos
n~ii,jor\ou~.cc01' \ ~ ~ . c smcls gr~~tific;~tion: ado- obxerver reports. particularly when one needs
lescc~it\.\vlio~ernioti~nalenrrgic.; tend to be an ob.jecti\:e take on microanalytic evenis. But
I'oc~~strci o n pcs~.s.teiicl to liolcl utilitarian \,ieu!s self-reports are impel-tant for precisely tlie rea-
of' the I'arnily (Lasson X: Richards. IC19-k). con they are ol'tcn shunned by rebearcher\-
Tliesc erpcct:~tions are a product of schema. na~nely.because they are biased by participant
cogni ti\,c strilctul'es tlir!t interpret csperiences perceptions. expectations, anti cognitions. The
on tllc basih of past interactions and that con- challenge for developmental scientists is how
str~lct ycripts that guide future interactions best to collect and ittilize reports from both
t B;~ld\vin. 1993). Differences in relationship participants i n n rel;~tionsliip. which are, by
sclie~na3 l . i ~I~eciu~se
~ the nat~11.e and the con- definition. not independent. To ~~iiderstand the
tent 01' inter:rctions dif'fer :\cross Ihnlily meni- true co:lrse of parent-adolescent elationsh ships,
bers: Mothers have more rn~~ndane socializing we must distinguish stability and change as
intcrac~ionswith children than fathers, and a they are experienced by each participant. This
much higher percentage of motlier-child inter- requires longitudinal data for each reporter. To
actions fall into this category than father-child understand tlie role that parent-child relation-
interactions. I n contrast, fathers devotes higher ships play in adolescent outcomes we must
proportion of their time with adolescents to distinguish each participant's perceptions
recreational activities. These tlistinctions are of the relationship from their perceptions of
amplificcl in households with more than one their own behavior and that of their partner.
child. Participants interpret these interactions This requires analytic techniclues designed for
in terms of their relationship schema; fathers, interdependent data (Kenny, Kashy, & Cook,
looking to relax, seek to minimize socializa- 2006). There are very few circumstances in
tion hassles with children. whereas mothers, which the optimal research strategy involves
~ 1 1 1 0 often experience negative affective spill- (1) f o c ~ ~ s i nexclusively
g on the views of a sin-
over from work. may invest considel-able emo- gle relationship participant or (2) combining
tion i n otherwise mundane interactions with parent and child reports into a single score.
Differences in schemas and experiences Parenting Styles and Practices
have iniportanl irnplic~~tions for reports about Interactional variations from one parent-
f'aniily relationships and interactions. Olson adolescent dyad to another have been sub-
(1977) notes that reports differ not only sumed. i n part, by the construct of parenting
between ~ne~nber-s of a family. but also between styles (Raumrind: 1931: Darling Rr Steinberg,
family memhers :und observers. The relation- 1993). Parenting styles chal-acterize parents
ship schema held by o b s e ~ x r sare not the and their relations with specific children.
same as those held by parents or children A~trhorit(it;~~~ /)cit-etztit?g denotes a complex
because observers have no common relation- amalgam of actions and attitudes that give pri-
ship histo~.y on which to base expectations ority to the child's needs ancl abilities while
and n o emotional stake in the interaction. at the same time implying age-appropl-iate
Doe5 this Incan that observer reports are more maturity demands. By contrast, tr~c~liot~irtrt~ircti
:iccurate'! Not necess:~rily because. although pnt-c.t7tiri,pis typified by inter-acticms implying
oh.;crvrr\ m a y he lcss biased. the)! are also relalive neglect of the child's needs in favor of
less infornied. Obse~.\,ersmay have difficulty the parent's agenda. strong demands for child
distingi~ishing pla!,ful insults from hostil- colnpliance. and forceful nietliotls for gain-
ity. a ~ ~the).i l ma!' mis\ insiclc joke.; or veiled ing compliance a11d punishing infractions.
lriterpersonal Processes and Relationship Perceptions 17

implies low demands particular practices in specific relationships. As
from pal-ents related to child-centered indul- their names imply, parental styles and parental
practices describe parents. who are assumed
. and self-direction on the part of the
.rence to be the primary vehicle of influence in the
A fourth dimension, ~(rlirl~lol~led
irlS, refers to parent-centered inattentiveness relationship. Styles and practices are related
and neglect of the child (Maccoby & Martin, to characteristics of parents, such as education
1983). These concepts alniost certainly gain and personality, but they are not traits; parents
their explanatory power from diverse inter- can and do adopt different styles and practices
actions whose influence is often mistakenly with different children (Baumrind, 1991).
attributed to parents alone (Collins & Madsen, Scholars have devoted considerable effort
2003). Indeed, parenting styles are defined in to the challenge of parsing authol-itativeparent-
terms of the attitudes that pasents have toward ing. Two areas of controversy merit mention.
children and child rearing, the tenor of inter- The first concerns distinguishing psychologi-
actions between parents and children. and cal control from other aspects of authoritative
expressions of warmth and discipline. For parenting (Barber, 1996; Gray & Steinberg,
example, Maccoby and Martin (1983) identi- 1999). Despite recent studies suggesting
fied the defining features of authoritativeness as that psychological control is distinct from
interactions that are high in reciprocity and autonomy granting (Silk, Morris, Kanaya, &
bidirectional communication, whereas authori- Steinberg, 2003) and monitoring (Smetana
tarian and indulgent styles imply relationships & Daddis, 2002), the construct remains poorly
in which reciprocity and communication are understood, in part because some studies
disrupted by the dominance by the parent (in operationalize psychological control as an
the authoritarian style) or the child (in the index of parenting style whereas others treat
indulgent style). As initially conceived, inter- it as a parenting practice (Steinberg. 2005).
actions between parents and children were The second area of controversy concerns the
both a marker and a product of different styles distinction between parental monitoring and
of parenting. adolescent disclosure (Kerr & Stattin, 2000;
The distinction between the parent's atti- Stattin & Kerr, 2000). Although monitoring
tudes about children and the parent's actions is typically defined as parents' attempts to
toward children becomes clearer in Darling elicit information about youths' activities and
and Steinberg's (1993) formulation, in which whereabouts, measures tend to conflate paren-
parer~tal .sll),les are global attitudes and emo- tal knowledge with parental efforts to stay
tional stances, and parental practices are informed (Stattin, Kerr, & Tilton-Weaver, in
specific strategies for gaining children's com- press). Stattin and Kerr argue that most paren-
pliance, maintaining control, and enforcing tal knowledge conles from the voluntary dis-
expectations. Although relevant to relation- closure of information by adolescents rather
ships, styles and practices should not be con- than the active solicitation of information by
sidered indices of relationship quality; rather, parents. Disclosure, they argue, is a product of
these variables refer to the parent's views family climate or parenting style, not parent-
about the relationship and behavior within the ing practices. These controversies underscore
relationship, respectively. Practices are pos- the need for scholars to separately consider
tulated to be an outgrowth of styles, so styles information from parents and children because
have more influence over the overall quality there are obvious confounds between the
of the relationship than practices. Neither js chilcl's reports of their own behavior and their
fixed; practices change as attitudes about par- views of their parents' styles and practices.
enting are modified and. presumably, parents In North American samples. authoritative
modify styles on the basis of experiences with parenting and indulgent parenting are more
Interpersonal Processes and Relationship Perceptions 23

domains of authority. Adolescents view an in different terrns (Noller. 1994). Adolescents

increasing number of issues to be personal appeal- to have more accurate (or more hon-
Inatless outside of parental authority, whereas est) appraisals of unpleasant aspects of the
parents continue to see the same topics as pru- relationship than do parents. Reports of family
dential or social-conventional matters that fall conflict from independent observers frequently
within their jurisdiction. Steinberg (200 1 ) sug- match those of adolescent children, but neither
oests that one reason adults see adolescence as observer nor adolescent reports accord with
a particularly contentious age period is that in parent reports of the same events (Gonzales
the process of claiming authorit)! over domains et al., 1996). Although fathers are stereotyped
previously regulated by parents, youth may as the family member most likely to be out of
appear overly eager to reject the ways of their touch, accumulating evidence implies that it
elders. is mothers who most often underestimate the
In contrast to the relatively detailed infor- incidence of parent-adolescent conflict and
mation available about parent-child conflict overestimate its severity. Not coincidentally,
during adolescence, we know remarkably mothers also report the most negative reper-
little about changes in parent-child conflict cussions from conflicts with adolescent chil-
from childhood to adolescence and from ado- dren (Silverberg & Steinberg, 1990). Several
lescence to adulthood. Evidence is limited to explanations have been offered for mothers'
a single cross-sectional survey indicating that relatively extreme responses. Chief among
children perceive conflicts with mothers and them is that conflict represents a personal fail-
fathers to be more prevalent during adoles- ure for mothers because it is an indictment of
cence than during childhood or young adult- their ability to serve as family conciliators and
hood (Furman & Buhrmester, 1989). In the peacemakers (Vuchinich, 1987). Moreover,
absence of an empirical literature, Laursen and conflict is the primary vehicle through which
Collins (2004) offered two speculative propo- adolescents renegotiate their role in the fam-
sitions regarding long-term developmental ily. which inevitably diminishes maternal (but
trends in parent-child conflict: (1) The level of not necessarily paternal) authority (Steinberg,
negative affect in parent-child conflict prob- 198 1 ). The fact that parent and child reports
ably is higher during adolescence than during of conflict appear to converge during late ado-
any other age period. except perhaps toddler- lescence suggests that disagreements, though
hood; and (2) the prevalence of coercion and often unpleasant, play an important role in
winner/loser outcomes in parent-child con- aligning expectations and facilitating com-
flict gradually declines across successive age ~nunicativnamong family members (Collins,
periods from toddlerhood to adulthood. To this 1995).
we would add that parents and children view Parents appear to become either more
these developmental trends somewhat differ- skilled or less invested in changes in relation-
ently. Parents may regard the changes as signs ships with later born children as compared
of rejection and deteriorating relationships, with firstborn children. It is also possible that
whereas adolescents may regard them as evi- later born children learn how to better navigate
dence of an (overdue) acknowledgment of relationships with parents by watching their
enhanced maturity. Those who perceive loss older counterparts. In any event, second-born
(i.e.. parents) in response to change experience children report less conflict during early and
greater stress than those who perceive gain mid-adolescence than firstborn children did
(i.e., adolescent children). during these age periods (Whiteman, McHale, &
Viewing relationships through the prism of Crouter, 2003). Compared to second-born chil-
personal gain and loss helps to explain why par- dren. mothers and fathers discipline firstborn
ents and adolescents describe their interactions children relatively more often during early
24 Parent-Child Relationships During Adolescence

adolescence, particularly if they display high siatus or pubertal timing. Pubertal status refers
levels of emotionality (Tucker, McHale. 8: to absolute le\lel of sexual maturity. Meta-
Crouter. 2003). This type of differential treat- analytic conlparisons yield a small positive
ment is not necessarily detrimental. Adolescent linear association between p1.1bertal status and
perceptions of differential treatment are asso- conflict affect. indicating that greater physical
ciated with parent reports of greater relation- maturity is associated with grearer negative
ship hostility only when the child perceives affect (Laursen et al., 1998). No similar asso-
the treatment to be unfair (Kowal, Krull. & ciation emerged for pubertal status and the fre-
Kramer, 2004). quency of parent-child conflict. Observational
The extent to which gender moderates the studies of problem-solving interactions among
relation between parent-child conflict behav- fathers, mothers, and children suggest that
ior and developniental changes in adoles- family dynamics shift as a function of puber-
cents varies according to whether the focus tal maturation (Hill. 1988; Steinberg, 198 1).
is the frequency of conflict, the affective Fathers interrupt adolescents during discus-
response to it, or the resolution. Rates of con- sions more in the middle phases of pubertal
flict and levels of negative affect are higher in maturation than in earlier or later phases, suc-
mother-daughter relationships than in other cessfuily signaling their dominant role in fam-
parent-child relationships (Laursen & Collins. ily decision making. Adolescents and mothers
1994). In the meta-analysis by Laursen and mutually interrupted each other most often
colleagues ( I 998), conflict rates declined more during mid-adolescence, as the former chal-
in mother-child relationships than in father- lenges the authority of the latter. In later puber-
child relationships, but gender did not mod- tal phases, mothers interrupt less and appear to
erate changes in affective intensity. Conflict be less influential over the outcomes of group
resolutions vary as a function of both parent decisions than sons; mothers and daughters
and adolescent gender: Compromise is more interrupt each other less and exert similar lev-
common with mothers than with fathers, and els of influence over family decisions.
disengagement is more typical of conflict with Pubertal timing is an indicator of ado-
sons than of conflict with daughters (Smetana lescents' level of mahlrity relative to peers.
et al.. 2003; Smetana, Yau, & Hanson, 1991; Generally, early maturing sons and daughters
Vuchinich, 1987). In contrast, studies of nega- experience more frequent and more intense
tive affect and conflict resolution yield no reli- parent-child conflict than do adolescents who
able evidence that gender moderates patterns mature on time (Laursen & Collins, 1994).
of developmental change. Too little attention Indeed. pubertal timing accounts for much
has been given to understanding the role gen- of the variance in parent-adolescent conflict
der plays in differences between dyadic and tri- that might otherwise be attributed to pubertal
adic parent-child conflict. Adolescents clearly status. Several explanations for the associa-
interact differently with one parent than they tion between pubertal timing and parent-child
do with two parents (Vuchinich, Emery, 8: conflict have been offered, most of which sug-
Cassidy, 19881, and some evidence suggests gest that parents do not agree with adolescents
that confiict discussions are more constructive that physical precocity is a sufficient basis for
when they involve one parent than when they autonomy granting (Laursen 8:Collins, 2004).
involve both (Gjerde. 1986). Fathers and sons E\~olutionaryaccounts take a more distal view,
are particularly likely to alter conflict behav- arguing that heightened parent-adolescent
iors in the presence of another parent (Smetana. conflict accompanies early puberty and the
Abernethy. & Harris, 2000). onset of sexual activity, which helps to ensure
Variations in conflict attributed to puberty reproductive success under conditions of envi-
depend on whether the indicator is pubertal ronmental risk (Belsky. Steinberg. & Draper,
The Role of Parent-Child Relationships in Adolescent Ad.jnstment 25

1 ~ ~ 1Findings
). that heightened conflict pre- are less likely to rely on disengagement than
cedes rather than follows the early onset of dismissing adolescents (Ducharme, Doyle, &
puberty (Belsky et al., 2007; Grabel-. Brooks- Markiewicz, 2002). One of the most iniportant
Gunn,& warren, 1995; Moffitt, Caspi, Belsky, tasks confronting parents and children during
g~ Silva, 1992) underscore the notion that indi- adolescence is to renegotiate their roles and
,idua] differences in parent-adolescent con- relationship: the overall tenor of the affiliation
flict are rooted in long-standing differences in has an important bearing on the attitudes that
family relationships. each brings to the discussion.
Although families vary considerably, the To conclude, many families experience a
extreme forms of conflict implied by the popu- modest upswing in conflict at the outset of ado-
1. impression of storm and stress are neither lescence, but disagreements typically are not a
typical nor inevitable. Bandura (1964) force- threat to relationships. Indeed, conflic~during
fully argued that difficult relations during the this period act~~ally
may strengthen relationships
teenage years are generally circumscribed to by providing a vehicle for colnmunication about
those families that also had difficult relations interpersonal issues that require attention. More
during childhood. Subsequent reviews of the than any other form of social interaction, dis-
literature consistently conclude that turmoil agreements offer parents and adolescents an
characterizes a small minority of house- opportunity to reconsider and revise expecta-
holds with adolescent children-probably tions and renegotiate roles and responsibilities
somewhere between 5% and 15% of North to bc consistent with the autonomy typically
American families. As we will discuss later, accorded to youth in their culture. Most fami-
individual adjustment is closely bound to lies successfi~llymeet this challenge because
interpersonal conflict (Smetana et al., 2006). they are able to draw on healthy patterns of
Relationship difficulties usually have more interaction and com~nunicationestablished dur-
to do with distressed family systems or indi- ing earlier age periods. But for a small minority
vidual mental health problems than with the of families, the onset of adolescence holds
challenges posed by adolescent development the potential for a worsening of relationships.
(Offer & Offer. 1975; Rutter et al., 1976). This Families with histories of ineffective relation-
serves as a fitting backdrop to findings from ships are at risk for dysfunctional discord as
cluster analyses indicating that bickering is they encounter pressures to realign relationships
fairly common in some families, but only a in response to the developmental demands of
small fraction have frequent and angry quarrels adolescence.
(Branje, van Doorn, van der Valk, & Meeus, in
press; Smetana, 1996). THE ROLE OF PARENT-CHILD
Conflict management processes also vary RELATIONSHIPS IN ADOLESCENT
across dyads such that the significance of a ADJUSTMENT
disagreement depends on the perceived qual- Links between parent-adolescent relationships
ity of the relationship. Feelings of positive and the development of individual adolescents
connectedness promote the consideration of have been the focus of most of the research
alternatives in a nonthreatening context: in less on families as contexts of adolescent devel-
supportive relationships, disagreement may be opment. Because the evidence on this point
interpreted as a hostile attack that requires an has been reviewed recently and extensively
antagonistic response (Hauser et al., 1991). It is (Collins & Steinberg, 2006: Steinberg & Silk,
not surprising, therefore, that securely attached 2002), this section is selective. It focuses pri-
adolescents report fewer conflicts overall marily on how the recurring action patterns
and are more likely to ~*esolveconflict with and emotional qualities of parent-adolescent
parents through the use of compromise and interactions are related to key aspects of
26 Parent-Child Relationships During Adolescence

psychosocial competence in adolescence. The parenting, in contrast. consists of relati\~ely

section is divided into two parts. The first is an few expectations. low invol\~enient with the
overview of findings directly linking parent- child. and a re.jecting. unresponsive. parent-
child interactions to adolescent development. centered attitade. Recent evidence suggests
The second outlines illustrative evidence that that the advantages of authoritative parentinp
parent-child relationships also play an impor- and the disadvantapes of neglectful parenting,
tant indirect role in adolescent socialization by found in community samples across cultures.
moderating and mediating the impact of intlu- may even extend to families of youth who
ences i n and beyond the family. con~micserious cri~ninaloffenses (Steinberg,
Blatt-Eisengart, & Cauffman. 2006).
Adolescent Outcomes Associated with Practices that are typical of authorita-
Pal-ent-Adolescent Relationships tive fanlilies are linked to indices of positive
Parental style, the dimension that is most adjustment. In studies of moral development
closely related to the emotional tenor or p a l - and social responsibility. prosocial behavior is
ity of the parentxhild relationship, is regarded con-elated with clearly cornmunicated paren-
as having ~notivationaleffects on the child's tal expectations for appropriate behavior, and
receptiveness to specific practices (Darling & with warmth and moderate power- accompa-
Steinberg, 1993). It follows that the quality of nied by reasoning and explanation (Eisenberg,
parent-child exchanges and shared decision Fabes. & Spinrad. 2006). Adolescents' percep-
making, over and above the specific content tions of parental acceptance and involvenlent
of parental teaching. should contribute to the are correlated positively with self-confidence.
development of autonomous, responsible ado- identity exploration. and empathic behav-
lescent behavior by facilitating role-taking ior (Jackson. Dunham, & Kidwell, 1990;
skills, ego development, and identity explo- Kamptner, 1988). Observational studies of
ration (Grotevant & Cooper, 1986: Hauser parent-adolescent interaction have shown
et al., 199 1 ). The evidence is consistent with that adolescents from families marked by high
this hypothesis: Mature levels of these compe- encouragement for expressing and develop-
tencies are associated with parent-adolescent ing one's own point of view manifested higher
relationships in which both individuation and levels of identity exploration (Grotevant &
connectedness are encouraged (Allen, Hauser, Cooper, 1985).These conclusions are bolstered
Bell, & O'Connor, 1994; Lamborn. A4ounts. by longitudinal studies showing that high lev-
Steinberg, & Dornbusch, 199 I). els of bidirectional communication and mutual
Parental styles have been iinked to a wide respect in parentxhild relationships corre-
range of adjustment outcomes. In general, late positively with subsequent adolescent
children of authoritative parents are most apt psychosocial maturity. Allen and colleagues
to excel in school and display the highest lev- (1994) report that parents' (especially fathers')
els prosocial behavior, whereas children of behaviors that made it Inore difficult for fam-
neglectful or uninvolved parents tend to evince ily members to discuss their preferences were
the most antisocial and health-risk behaviors highly con-elated with subsequent decreases in
and the least psychosocial maturity (Steinberg. adolescents' ego development and self-esteem.
2001). Authoritative parent-child relationships I n a sirnilar study. Walker and Taylor (1991)
are marked by parents' expectations of mature found that advances in adolescents' moral-
behavior in combination with interpersonal reasoning levels were best predicted by earlier
warmth, accepting attitudes. bidirectional parent-child interactions characterized by sup-
communication. and an emphasis on train- portive. bul cognitively challenging, cliscus-
ing social responsibility and concern for the sions of moral issues. Although joint decision
impact of one's action on others. Neglectful making is generally associated with the most
The Role of Parent-Child Relationships in Adolescent Ad,justn~ent 27

favorable adolescent outcomes, longitudinal and each is known to make a unique contribu-
findings suggest that additional benefits may tion to adolescent outcomes. With regard to
accrue to those who are gradually accorded negative features. many studies have indicated
autonomy over personal issues (Smetana, that high levels of conflict are associated with
campione-Barr, 8r Daddis, 2004). psychosocial problems during adolesce~jceand
A large body of evidence links certain beyond. Reciprocated hostility between parents
parenting practices to maladaptive adoles- and early adolescents predicts subsequent con-
cent outcomes. Correlational findings imply duct problems arid depressive symptoms during
that behavior and substance use mid-adolescence and high levels of expressed
are most strongly predicted by an absence of negative affect toward romantic partners at age
behavioral control; self-esteem and internaliz- 18 (Ge, Best, Conger, & Simons, 1996: Kim,
ingproblems have the strongest links to wartnth Conger, Lorenz, & Elder, 2001). High levels of
and autonomy granting; and school grades are parentxhild conflict during adolescence have
uniquely associated with warmth, autonomy also been linked to en~otionalmalad.justment
ganting, and behavioral control (Barber, and poor-quality relationships with roman-
Stoltz, & Olsen, 2005; Gray & Steinberg, tic and marital partners at age 25 (Overbeek,
1999). Studies of this type have been justly Stattin, Vermulst, Ha. Rr Engels, 2007).
criticized for their reliance on concurrent data, Conflict is not uniformly deleterious, how-
but recent longitudinal evidence indicates that ever. Its impact appears to vary as a function
parenting practices predict subsequent changes of the perceived quality of the relationship.
in adolescent outcomes. Among youth affiliat- Evidence suggests that conflict is inversely
ing with deviant peers at age 11, externalizing related to well-being if the relationship is per-
behaviors increased across the next 4 years ceived to be poor, but moderate amounts of
for those whose parents reported low levels of conflict may be beneficial for those whose rela-
behavioral control, but there was no change in tionships are good (Adams & Laursen, 2007).
externalizing problems for those whose pat-- Regardless of the quality of the relationship,
ents reported high levels of behavioral control the worst outcomes are generally reserved for
(Galambos, Barker, &Almeida, 2003). Parental those with the most conflicts. But when ado-
warmth also forecasts decreases in adolescent lescents reporting no conflicts with mothers
externalizing behaviors; psychological control and fathers are compared to those reporting
anticipates increases in adolescent internaliz- an average number of conflicts, the latter had
ing (Doyle & Markiewicz, 2005). Some studies higher school grades if they were in better but
have raised the prospect that the influence of not poorer quality relationships and reported
different parenting practices varies as a fi~nc- more withdrawal if they were i n poorer but
tion of the child's characteristics. For instance, not better quality relationships. The negative
harsh parenting best predicts externalizing tenor of conflicts in relationships perceived to
problen~sfor undercontrolled youth but inter- be unsupportive undoubtedly plays a central
nalizing problems for overcontrolled youth role in these deleterious outcomes. Findings
(van Leeuwen, Mervielde, Braet, & Bosmans, that poorly managed parentqhild conflict is
2004). Findings of this sort strongly imply that associated with adolescent depression, delin-
greater attention must be given to the match quency, and self-esteem (Caughlin & Malls.
between parenting practices and child char- 2004; Tucker, McHale. & Crouter, 2003; van
acteristics, because some child characteristics Doorn, Branje. & Meeus, in press) suggest that
may amplify the risks associated with deleteri- dysfunctional families not only have frequent
ous parenting. disagreements but that these disagreements at-e
Negativeandpositivefeaturesofparent+hild typically angry and are resolved in a coercive.
relationship are only modestly intercorrelated, unconstructive manner.
The Role of Parent-Child Relationships in Adolescerit Adjustnient 27

favorable adolescent outconles, longitudinal and each is known to make a unique contribu-
findings suggest that additional benefits may tion to adolescent outcomes. With regard to
nrcrue negative features, many studies have indicated
-.-- - to those who are gradually accorded
autonomy over personal issues (Smetana, that high levels of contlict are associated with
campione-Bars, & Daddis. 2004). psychosocial proble~nsduring adolescence and
A large body of evidence links certain beyond. Reciprocated hostility between parents
practices to ~naladaptive adoles- and early adolescents predicts subsequent con-
cent outcomes. Comelational findings imply duct problems and depressive symptoms during
that antisocial behavior and substance use mid-adolescence and high levels of expressed
are most strongly predicted by an absence of negative affect toward romantic partners at age
beha\rioral self-esteem and internaliz- 18 (Ge, Best, Conger, & Simons, 1996; Kim,
ing problems have the strongest links to warmth Conger, Lorenz, & Elder, 2001). High levels of
and autonomy granting; and school grades are parentxhild conflict during adolescence have
uniquely associated with warmth, autonomy also been linked to emotional maladjustment
granting, and behavioral control (Barber, and poor-quality relationships with roman-
sto]tz, & Olsen, 2005; Gray & Steinberg, tic and marital partners at age 25 (Overbeek,
1999). Studies of this type have been justly Stattin, Vermulst. Ha, & Engels, 2007).
criticized for their reliance on concurrent data, Conflict is not uniformly deleterious, how-
but recent longitudinal evidence indicates that ever. Its impact appears to vary as a function
parenting practices predict siibsequent changes of the perceived quality of the relationship.
in adolescent outcomes. Among youth affiliat- Evidence suggests that conflict is inversely
ing with deviant peers at age 11, externalizing related to well-being if the relationship is per-
behaviors increased across the next 4 years ceived to be poor, but moderate amounts of
for those whose parents reported low levels of conflict may be beneficial for those whose rela-
behavioral control, but there was no change in tionships are good (Adams & Laursen, 2007).
externalizing problenls for those whose par- Regardless of the quality of the relationship,
ents reported high levels of behavioral control the worst outcomes are generally reserved for
(Galambos, Barker, & Almeida. 2003). Parental those with the most conflicts. But when ado-
warmth also forecasts decreases in adolescent lescents reporting no conflicts with mothers
externalizing behaviors; psychological control and fathers are compared to those reporting
anticipates increases in adolescent internaliz- an average number of conflicts, the latter had
ing (Doyle & Marluewicz, 2005). Some studies higher school grades if they were in better but
have raised the prospect that the influence of not poorer quality relationships and reported
different parenting practices varies as a func- more withdrawal if they were in poorer but
tion of the child's characteristics. For instance, not better quality relationships. The negative
harsh parenting best predicts externalizing tenor of conflicts in relationships perceived to
problems for undercontrolled youth but inter- be unsupportive undoubtedly plays a central
nalizing problems for overcontrolled youth role in these deleterious outcomes. Findings
(van Leeuwen, Mervielde, Braet, & Bosmans, that poorly managed parent-child conflict is
2004). Findings of this SOIT strongly imply that associated with adolescent depression, de!in-
greater attention must be given to the match quency, and self-esteem (Caughlin & Malis,
between parenting practices and child char- 2004: Tucker, McHale, & Crouter, 2003; van
acteristics, because some child characteristics Doorn, Branje, & Meeus, in press) suggest that
may alnplifjl the risks associated with deleteri- dysfunctional families not only have frequent
ous parenting. disagreements but that these disagreements are
Negativeand posi tive featuresof parentxhild typically angry and are resolved in a coercive,
relationship are only modestly intercorrelated, unconstructive manner.
28 Part-ut-(.'hild Krl;ttionst~ipsDuring .Atlolcscence

Pt~1.ct~l21ions ~ilattcr. Ne\v stuclies indicate The i ~ l c r e a s i nuse

~ o f Ionpi~i~dinal dcsigns
that ;~clolr:accnt \.ie\\,s 01' I-eI:~tionshipclu;~lity bodes wel! I'oI. conclusions s o r i c c ~ . r ~ parent
p1.er1ic.1tlic t~.a,jector! of s~~hsecl~lerit indi\riilual jnfluer-~ces.Hou,e\~er.thc la1.9eIy correlational
;~di~i.tnlent.Stuclies of attac.hme~it sec~irity nature of finclings from loncituclinal data
i~~ilicatct l l ; ~ t a ~ l o / ~ ' s c c nrcl?resent;~tions
t of Ica\,ex oilen tlie clnestion of Ixocess: Mihat is
p;~l.e~ir-chilcl ~.elationsliips predict changes the oriyin of' associations bctwet.11 \:;ir.iations
in :\nil cs~ernalizing sy~nptoms in family ~.el;~tionsIiips : ~ n dadolchcent :~cl.j~ist-
(Allcn. Portel.. M(:Fa~.lancl. McElhancy. G: ~ n c n t Several
? possibilities ha\,e heen pl-vposed
Marsh. 2007'1. Adolescent attachnie~ltsecurity (Collins ct al.. 3000). Onc i i that parents'chilct-
also pre~lictiincre;~sesin social skills and con- rearing behaviors provide ~iiotlelsof different
st~.ucti\.cinteractions \with rom;~ntic partners patterns 0 1 ' social responsibility and conccrn
(Allcn. Mar.sli. & for others. A second possibility is that differ-
1,and. 2002: Rois~nan.Madsen. Hcnnighausen. ent parenting styles engcnclel- dif'ferentially
Sl.oufe. & Collins, 2001 ). Difficulties increase effective skills for, responsible
elver tinle l c ~ ~ ~ a ~ l o l e ~\hllioc e ni11itii1lly
ts ~ ~ e ~ r e i v e beha\.ior-. In this respect, parent-child rela-
lo\v S U ~ J ~ X > Ifrom
'I pal.ent.;. whereas a ~ l ~ i u s t ~ i ~ e n t tionships provide continuities bctween chilcl-
prohlerns relnai~ltlat or even decline for those hood nncl the new de~nanclso f adolescence
\vho initially perceive high support f ~ . oparents ~i~ that facilitate the inteyation of past and Future
(Hrcndgen. Wanner, Morin. & Vitaro, 2005; roles. Third, sensitive. responsive parental
Deho\fiC.Buist. & Rcitz. 3004). This is not just treatment of children and adolescents pro-
a matter of' tlie troubled getting worse and the motes positive emotional bonds that make the
\vcll-adjusted setting better: the same finclings values and behaviors of parents more salient
emerge for youth with comparable levels of and attractive to adolescent!;. These three pos-
beha\!ior problems at the outset of adolescence sibilities are not mutually exclusive. !ndeed,
(Mooney. Laursen, & kdams. 2007). multiple plausible mechanisms imply a more
Adolescent r.epol-ts are most likely to be c o ~ n p l e xcausal process than does a view that
indicati\tc of positive adjustment when they emphasizes the simple transmission of par-
cc>nvel-geu,itli parent reports. Regardlessof who ents' values to the next generation (Kuczynski,
sees [he ~rclationshipin hetter terms, large dis- 2003: Grusec, Goodnow, & Kuczynski, 2000).
crepancies signal poor aclolescerit functioning. Ac!olescent adjustment clearly is facilitated by
Specif'ically. diverpent reports of relationship certain parental hehaviors, but the operative
clu;~lityanel parenting practices are ;~ssociated pl-ocesses almost certainly include dynamic
with concurl-cnt acadernic and belia\:ioral prob- properties of relationships between parent and
lenis (Fcinberg. Howe. Reiss. & Hetherington. child that foster the adolescents' desire or will-
2000: h4ounts. 2007) ancl prospective declines ingness t o be influenced.
in aclolescent selt-esteem (Oliannessian. Lerner. The dehate on pi~re~:tul monitoring and
Lcrnrr-. & Eye. 2000). Perceptions also child disclosure is i~istl-uctivein this regard.
matlcr ill terrns at' whethel. i~dolescents see Parental monitoring has long becn assumed
thenlsrl\jes a receiving thc sunic trcatnier;t as a to be beneficial for adolescent developn~ent.
sihlinr. AAcr accounting for absolute levels of Many scholars have I-eportecl that monitor-ing
each. clif'l'e~.cntialu,;crrntli arid control ~~nicluely preclicts concul-rent and prospective adolescenl.
prcilict adolescent outcvmes (Tam-outi- outcomes. Although monitor-ing is conccptu-
R'l;~l,hinh. Duhas. Gel-;.is. 'Yr. \ 2 ~Aken. ~ ~ l 7003). alizecl as an active process \vIierehy pare~its
Not xtir.p1-i5ingl!*. effects are stronger t'ol- the solicit inl'ormation ilb0~11children and keep
si hlin; who percei\~esliimxelf or hc~.selfto be tr:~c!i of their acti\,ities and he^-eabouts. tlie
thc rccipirnt nf poo~.c~. t~-eittn?er)r[Feinbcrg & conflalion o f measures 01' parental control and
He:lit,~-ins~on. 2001: S!ii~ch:uiKr Noller. 2002). kno\t.ledge wit11 measures of child disclosure
The Role of Pare:nt-Child Relationships in Adolescent .4djustment 29

calls into question the ~nechanismsof parent is effective in shaping adolescent outcomes by
influence, raising the prospect that a family creating conditions that foster or inhibit honest
climate that encourages disclosure may be disclosure and effective supervision.
more important than parent monitoring efforts.
Parent-Child Relationships as
Initial reports by Stattin and Kerr (2000; Kerr &
Moderators and Mediators of
Stattin, 2000) and a recent longitudinal rep-
lication (Kerr, Stattin, and Burk, in press) Influence
indicating that parental knowledge from child Contemporary approaches to research on
disclosure predicted concurrent adolescent parenting have moved beyond the exclusive
adjustment more strongly than did knowledge reliance on the global analyses of parental influ-
gained by tracking and surveillance launched ence that dominated the field in the last cen-
a flurry of empirical work. The finding that tury (Collins et al., 2000). Among the insights
parental monitoring is of secondaly impor- emerging from these more complex nlodels of
tance in the prediction of adolescent out- parenting is the recognition that, in addition
comes has not been consistently replicated to their direct impact on adolescent develop-
(Fletcher, Steinberg, & Williams-Wheeler, 2004; ment, relationships with parents also may be
Waizenhofer, Buchanan, & Jackson-Newsom, significant as intervening mechanisms. In this
2004), which has stimulated an ongoing search section, we consider instances in which parent-
for potential moderating variables. adolescent relationships serve as riloclerators
One important distinction to emerge is of relations between other sources of influence
that between voluntary disclosure and active and adolescent outcomes and as mediators that
attempts to keep secrets from parents (Frijns, help to account for or explain why a predictor
Finkenaur, Vermulst, & Engels, 2005). Adoles- is related to the outcome of interest.
cents from authoritative homes and those who The complex interplay between genetic
report high levels of trust and acceptance in and environmental influences on adolescent
relationships with parents are more apt to dis- development is illustrated by recent findings
close information and refrain from lying and indicating that parenting moderates the heri-
keeping secrets than adolescents who report tability of adolescent adjustment difficulties.
low levels of trust and acceptance (Darling, The first example concerns the role of parental
Cumsille, Caldwell, & Dowdy, 2006; Smetana, monitoring on adolescent cigarette smoking
Metzger, Gettman, & Campione-Barr, 2006). (Dick, Viken, Purcell, Kaprio. Pulkkinen, &
These findings raise the possibility that some Rose, 2007). A genetically informed twin
parents find monitoring more effective and design revealed that parental monitoring had
rewarding than others. We know that parents a very modest direct influence on smoking
tend to decrease their monitoring of deviant (accounting for less than 2% of the variance),
youth, even though this results in a subsequent but the effects for monitoring as a moderator
escalation of antisocial behavior (Dishion, of genetic influence were dramatic: Genetic
Nelson. & Bullock, 2004; Jang & Smith, 1997; factors accounted for more than 60% of the
Laird, Pettit, Bates, & Dodge, 2003). Perhaps variance at the low end of the parental moni-
the parents of deviant children (for whom trust toring continuum and less than 15% of the
and acceptance are in short supply) respond to variance at the high end. A related study indi-
secretive and nonresponsive youth by reducing cated that parental warmth similarly moder-
efforts to solicit information, which widens the ates genetic influence on adolescent antisocial
gulf between them and diminishes the parent's behavior but not depression (Feinberg, Button.
potential for positive influence (Kerr. Stattin, & Neiderhiser, Reiss. & Hetherington, 2007). At
Pakalnaskiene, in press). Thus, family climate low levels of warmth, genetics accounts for
dictates the degree to which parental knowledge 90% of the variance in antisocial behavior, but
30 Parent-Child Relationships During Adolescence

at high levels of warmth. the contribution of parents' substance use. Adolescents who had
genetics approaches zero. These findings ren- a relatively good relationships with parents
der discussions about the relative importance tended to follow their parents' example more
of genes and parenting practices obsolete; than if the relationship was relatively poor
child outcomes clearly depend on both. (Andrews. Hops, & Duncan, 1997), implying
As one set of relationships in a lar,Oer net- that positive relationships with antisocial par-
work of close relationsliips. parent influences ents may be a source of risk.
moderate and are moderated by peer rela- These instsnces broaden silnplistic cause-
tionships and relationships with other falllily and-effect models of the impact of parent-
members. Most adolescents are embedded adolescent relationships. Rather than focusing
in networks of relationships that are siniilar in only on the assumption that parenting styles
their perceived quality. Longitudinal c-vidence and practices cnusc. the outcomes to which cor-
indicates that the majority of adolescents relational findings have linked them. compel-
describe all of their parent and friend rela- ling evidence shows that parent-adolescent
tionships as either high quality or low qual- relationships contribute to adolescent develop-
ity; fewer than one in four adolescents report ment by modifying the impact of other sources
diverging support from peers and parents of influence and by transmitting them to ado-
(Laursen. Furman, & h4ooney. 2006). Good lescents through moment-to-moment exchanges
relationships with friends can ameliorate some between parents and children. The next section
of the detrimental impact associated with poor includes examples that illustrate the process
relationships with parents (Gauze, Bukowski, whereby parenting mediates associations from
Aquan-Assee, & Sippola, l996), but there are familial and extrafamilial stressors to adoles-
limits to this buffering. Adolescents reporting cent adjustment outcomes. We know that chil-
a positive relationship with a parent or a friend dren are active participants in the soc~alization
(but not both) had sornewhat better outcomes process and that parents react to their children's
than adolescents with no positive relation- behavior. Thus, parenting practices may buffer
ships, but adolescents with uniformly posi- against or exacerbate child tendencies, as in
tive relationships almost always had the best findings where inept parenting mediates links
school grades. the highest self-worth, and the between oppositional behavior in early acioles-
fewest behavior problems (Laursen & Mooney, cence and the subsequent trajectory of adoles-
2008). cent delinquent peer affiliation (Sirnons, Chao,
Parenting quality moderates extrafamilial Conger, & Elder, 2001). It is fitting, therefore,
stressors. Mid-adolescents experiencing high that scholars devote more effort to understanding
levels of school hassles demonstrated more and elaborating the various bidirectional models
competent functioning and less evidence of of parent+hild relationship influence.
psychopathology if they rated their familial
relationships as high quality rather than lower THE INTERPLAY OF
quality (Carber & Little, 1999). Moreover, CONTEXT AND RELATIONSHIP
the link between after-school self-care and PROCESSES AND OUTCOMES
involve~nentin problem behaviors was found Although the significance of parent-adolescent
to be buffered by parental acceptance and firm relationships and influences is surprisingly
control. which are the dual hallmarks of rela- consistent across social, economic. and cul-
tionships in authoritative families (Calambos & tural contexts (Barber. Stolz., & Olsen. 2005;
Maggs, 199 1 ). The potential complexity of Steinberg, 1001). forces outside of the parent-
moderation is evident in research showing adolescent dyad nevertheless help to shape
that the perceived quality of relationships with the nature and impact of interactions and their
parents facilitated adolescents' modeling of impact on adolescent behavior and adjustment.
The Interplay of Context and Relationship Processes and Outcomes 31

between adolescent adjustment and 1999). This heightened conflict is associ-

differing contexts are well documented ated with more nega~iveadolescent behavior
(e.g., ~ ~ l i g nHughes,
i, & Way, this volume). and poorer adiustment. even i n cases where
Recently, have begun to exam- the parent-adolescent relationship is generally
ine the processes that account for these asso- positive (Erel & Burman, 1995).
ciations. In general, their findings have shown The accu~nulated evidence implies that
that, although differing contexts each exert cer- marital conflict and other stressors may undel--
tain direct influences both on parenting and on mine parents' ability to maintain an authori-
adolescent behavior and adjustment, it is often tative parenting style. In many families links
the case that parent-adolescent interactions between marital conflict and adolescent inter-
serve as conduits by which contexts impinge nalizing and externalizing problems are medi-
on adolescent development or as bufFers of the ated by high parent-adolescent conflict and
potential impact of contexts. associated harsh discipline (Buehler & Gerard,
This section briefly outlines illustrative 2002; LOW & Stocker, 2005). Moreover,
instances of parent-adolescent interactions as according to longitudinal evidence, the non-
moderators and mediators of contextual influ- constructive resolution strategies that typify
ences. The first concerns changes in the fam- conflictful marital relationships are effectively
ily system associated with marital difficulties. transmitted to parent-adolescent relationships
The second focuses on links between adoles- (van Doorn, Branje, & Meeus, 2007). Relations
cent-parent relationships and parents' work between children and fathers are particularly
experiences and socioeconomic circumstances. vulnerable to high levels of marital troubles
The third considers the opportunities and con- (Krishnakumar & Buehler, 2000), suggest-
straints in parent-adolescent relationships ing that mediated effects may occur more fre-
associated with ethnic and cultural variations. quently in father-adolescent relationships than
in mother-adolescent relationships.
Characteristics of Family Systems
Adolescent development occurs within family Divorce and Reinarriage
systems, and apparently direct effects of fea- High levels of marital conflict com~nonly
tures of, and especially changes in, the systems eventuate in divorce, which can exacerbate the
are well documented. Most prominently, differ- stress and emotional dis~uptionthat stem from
ences between parent-adolescent relationships the multiple physical, cognitive, and social
in generally harmonious families versus those changes of adolescence. Moreover, the transi-
marked by high levels of conflict and disrup- tions necessitated by divorce may entail other
tion in one or more of the relationships in the stressors, such as economic need and changes
systems are frecluently associated with sharply in domicile, neighborhoods. and schools, as
contrasting behavior and adjustment of adoles- well as continuing emotional distress for par-
cents (Hetherington & Clingempeel, 1992). ents and reorganization of family roles and
relationships (Hetherington. 1999). These mul-
Impact of Parental Conflict tiple stressors contribute to temporary disorga-
Children and adolescents who witness fre- nization and disruption of parent-adolescent
quent, angry. unresolved conflicts between relationships. Mother-adolescent relationships
mothers and fathers become distressed and in divorced families manifest higher levels of
manifest depressive symptoms and behavior both conflic~and harmony than do relation-
problems (Cummings & Davies, 1994). In ships in never-divorced families. Divorced
addition, marital conflict is associated with mothers monitor their children's activities less
increased conflict between parents and ado- closely and demand greater responsibility for
lescents (Almeida. Wethington. & Chandler. family tasks than do married mothers. Divorced
motlrcl.~: r l ~u\e niorc I?cl-crl'lploI-~illld i'oer-
c.i\.e tccli~iiques to discil,lilic iind olIie~.u,ise
ini'l~~encr :lilole\ct.nts' I>clia\ior-. F(;r tlicir 1331.1,
atlolc.ce~~r> i n ~-t~c~rr~l!. cli\ o~cciihuiiilie~tcnci
to feel a~iser.;lrid riio~.i~l~ricIigri;~tio~i to\\':ircl
111~11.p:~rc~its. S(.)~lic r i t s L?). 13~111-
: ~ d o l c ~ ~ ~~.e:ict
ing a\+a! I-ror!i tlie farnil! iind hclia\ ing \\.ittl
aloof'ncss lon.;~rd130th I?:u.ents. ;i uithclra\\.al I'aniily huppo1.r is ~lot:~blyli'sk iml)c>rtanl 1'01-
tl~at]nay hell3 them ailiust to the Thcsc sus~:iinctl :iutI~o~.itati\~z p;irs~~tinyill intact
c l i a n ~ e \ in parent-;~dolesi.c.nt ~.el;iti~lisl~ips Iio~iseholds iTa!;lo~-. Cahtt.11. & Flickingel..
ant1 inl'lut~lices. ratlies than dil-cct elt'ects of 1903).These diftcrences in the siqriificance of
tlie divol-i.c 0 1~.cniar.i.iagc.libel!' account Sol-the poxtdi\rorcc a~-ranfemcllts\,a]-\ to home extcllt
links between transitioris in t~rnily systclns \uitli tile recency of clivorce 2nd the nurnbei-
nncl negari\.c hcliavios ~ u i d; ~ d j ~ ~ s t r ~i ni ethe ~lr of ;lncill:iry changes r l i i ~ t :lccolnpatiy cli\,orce
adolescent (for re\,iew. see Herlierington SL (Stei~ihel.pKr Silk. 2003).
S~anley-Hagan.2002). Are the implications of :~pparcntdisruptions
Whet1ie1- pcl.turbetl parent-adoleccnt i l l rela~ionsliips u~iiil~ic lo recclltly ilivol-ced
relationships irnply lii~lierle\iel< of parent- p:~~-c~itsancI daclolescerits'l Socle eviclencc sug-
adolescent cnnllict 111 clivorced than iri gesls that parenl:~l contlic~anel lack of har-
nc\ser-divorced l'amilies is i~nclcar. Some ~noliyin tlie tinlily havc n e ~ a t i v eeflects much
rescarchess found Iiiorc conl'lict iri divorced like those observed in stiltlies of the impiict
S;imilies ill the 2-year per-iod of adjustment, of divorce (Fauber. Foreliancl. Thomas. 61i
~ ~ i t3l yradual
i 1.e1ur-nto le\,els similar to those Wierson, 1990). Moreover, the n;iturc and
o!' nevel--divorced I'alni lies ( Hetherington & extent of' disruptions \'ary amon; divorcecl
Kclly, 2002). (.)tlicrs report th;rt initial k~niilies,\vith niore pronounceil linhs Sor boys
increased levels are sustained beyond tlie l'irst than fbr ~ i r l s ,especially when (lie noth her is
2 !/car-x (Baer. 1099). :irid s ~ i l lotliel-s found the c~~stotljal parent (Neetilt.. Su. & Doherty.
fewc,r- ill-gumenks in single-parent fi~~iiilies 1090). Adolescents who have experienced
than i n m;u-ried houseliolils (Snietana, YLIIJ, clivorce tenci to be somewhat Icss well adjusted
Rcstrepo, & BI-:\eyes. 199 1 ). TMJO studies s ~ g - than tliose who have not. 4 niettr-analysis of
gests that o\,crall rates of' parent-atlolcscen~ ~'arentaldi\/or.ce arid child adjusrment ~revealerl
conl'lict in i n ~ a c ttwo-parent households n~id niodest cliff'cl-euccs hrt\vecn tli~jorced and
divol-c.etl s i n g l e - p ; ~ ~ -households
cn~ are siinilal-. intact falllilies ill tcrriis o f sccoridary school
hut that ~uotllcr--addolesccnt conflict tliffers studcni outcolnes ill [he domains 01' academic
; ~ c ~ m houscliolclx
ss because mothers in single- :tcliie\;rmcnt. conciiic~. j~syciiological adjust-
par-cnt liouxeholds are engaged iri disputcs
that othcru.ise I'all ro f:itIie~-s in t\vo-l?ar.ent
houscholcis i12;~~lrser). 19%. 3005). Tlic i ~ i ~ l > ; ~of'c l r.crii:u-i.iace o n i7al-crit-
('ustodial parcritit.lf :irl.:ingcr;lents vary. i~tlolrscent rciationsliips lihc3wisc varies con-
[ ) i ~ l ' i ~ l ) t i o ~iui \ rcl;~tionsliip.; \4 it11 Iionciis-
lodial t3tIier.s appe;i~-to I?? more csicnsi\~c
alid long-la,ti~ig 1Iia11 i n motlicr--;~clolesccnt
rcI:i~io~isliip~. s l i o ~ i ~ i1i11k.\
g 10 ; I ~ , ~ L I S I I I ~ ~ I I ~
and rclation\liips o f ol'f<l~ririca dec:itie latcr
durin; youlif ;i~lulrl?ooilt Hur.ri Nc Dulllop.
IqC)X: Hcrlic~.i~lgtc)~i. 1009 I . Kegarcllehs. aclo-
lcsccnt.~\\,!I(>h;i\,e l-egular. \uppol.ti\,c contacl
The Interplay of (:onteat and Relationship Processes and Ouicomes 33

the former group declines somewhat when the Strong evidence indicates that the impact
parent relnalTies In contrast, Sons ~onletimcs of family econo~iiicstrain on adolescents is
benefit from the introduction of a stepfather mediated by a rise in negativity and a deteriora-
into the family, Their relations with mothers tion of nu]-turantand involved parenting, which
often inlprove, and stepfathers also report in turn is associated an increase in adolescent
relationships with boys than with academic and behavior problems (Gutman &
girls. Findings from one study imply that some Eccles, 1999). Familial conflicts serve a similar
African American adolescents benefit more mediating role in the link between family eco-
from remarriage than European American nomic hardship and adolescent aggression and
(McLanahan & Sandefur, 1994). anxiety-depression (Wadsworth & Compas,
In the final analysis, adolescents' relationships 2002). Both chronic poverty (McLoyd. 1998)
with parents and stepparents depend on sev- and sudden economic loss (Conger et al., 1992,
eral factors. Continuing tensions and conflict 1993) are associated with greater parent-
between an adolescent's biological mother and adolescent conflict, more negative behaviors,
father generally make it more difficult for the harsh, punitive parenting, and adverse adoles-
adolescent to adjust. cent outcomes in domains ranging from proso-
In general, noncustoclial parents who put the cia1 behavior to academic achievement.
welfare and adjustment of their children before Recent findings specify one process by
their own personal difficulties foster posi- which parent-adolescent relationships may
tive parent-adolescent relationships and high exacerbate or buffer the impact of economic
levels of authoritative parenting during family strain on adolescent behavior and adjustment.
transitions. Recent findings show that adoles- Early adolescents who experience chronic
cents who perceive little conflict between their stress from family turmoil, poverty, and
parents and close relationships between them- crowded, substandard living conditions gener-
selves and their parents have fewer adjustment ally manifest higher allostatic load (a physio-
problems than do those whose parents are in logical marker- of cumulative wear and tear on
conflict with one another (Brody & Forehand, the body) than adolescents with lower cumu-
1990). One reason for this is that adolescents lative risk. This effect is most pronounced for
often feel caught between warring parents and adolescents whose mothers are low in respon-
have attendant fears of breaching their rela- siveness. implying that having a responsive
tionship with one parent or another (Buchanan, mother is a resource for adolescents in stressful
Maccoby, & Dornbusch, 1991). circumstances, whereas low maternal respon-
siveness is an additional risk factor (Evans,
Kim, Ting, Tesher, & Shannis. 2007).
Economic Status It should be noted that stressors and devel-
In cases where parents either are unemployed opmental challenges emanate not only from
or income is insufficient for the family. ado- economic loss and disadvantage. As a group.
lescents face well-documented developmental children and adolescents from affluent families
challenges. Among the multiple risks associ- manifest problems such as depression, anxiety.
ated with economic strain are difficulties in and substance abuse to a greater extent than
familial relationships, including those between those from less affluent families (Luthar &
parents and adolescents. As with the effect Latendresse, 2005). This link between afflu-
of family system stressors. the operative fac- ence and developmental risk is mediated by
tor appears to be deterioration of the parents' achievement pressures and isolation from par-
ability to maintain nurturant, authoritative par- ents. In many affluent families, material wealth
enting (Grant, Compas, Stuhlmacher: Thurrn, appears to be accompanied by reduced contact
McMahon. & Halpert. 2003). between parents and their offspring. possibly
34 Parent-Chilcl Relationships During Adolescence

resul tin? in poorer quality parent-adolescent competing denlands of parents' work and
relationships (Luthar & Becker, 2002). family roles.

Ethnic and Cultural Variations

Parental Work Roles Little is known about variations in closeness
P:~rent-adolescent relationships often reflect among adolescents and parents who differ in
the nature of parents' work roles and the socioeconomic status or ethnic background.
stresses associated with them. Kohn (1979) One issue in comparing diverse groups is the
argued that parents whose work requires con- best method for equating the degree of close-
formity rather than individual initiative tend ness associated with different norms and cul-
to value obedience over autonomy in their tural forms of relating. The suggestion that
children's behavior. In addition. parents' work closeness be operationalized as interdepen-
schedules-whether they are required to travel dence may provide a partial solution to this
extensively. and even the distance between quandary by allowing for members of cul-
workplace and home-often influence what tural groups to specify and report on the fre-
adolescents are expected or allowed to do quency, duration, diversity, and salience of
(Gottfried, Gottfried, & Bathurst, 2002). activities that denote closeness in their respec-
Until recently. researchers focused almost tive contexts (Reis et al., 2000). Variations
exclusively on maternal employment. Today. among families also reflect differences in
few studies show differences in closeness or ethnic and cultural heritages. Different cul-
other qualities of relationships for working and tures foster sometimes contrasting views of
nonworking mothers (Galambos & Maggs, parent-adolescent relationships (Feldman &
1991; Keith, Nelson, Schlabach, & Thompson, Rosenthal, 1991). For Korean adolescents,
1990). Indeecl, both sons and daughters of strict parental control signifies parental
working mothers appear to have less stereo- warmth and low neglect. whereas middle-class
typed views of masculine and feminine gender adolescents in North America typically regard
roles than children with nonworking mothers the same behavior from parents as repressive
(HofTman & Youngblade, 1999). (Rohner & Pettengill, 1985). Adolescents from
In response, researchers have broadened European backgrounds report similar or greater
their inquiries to address the impact that par- closeness. compared to their peers from fami-
ents' work-related stressors have on their lies with Mexican or Chinese backgrounds, yet
family lives. Findings show that work-related those from the latter two groups experience a
stressors Inay exacerbate marital and parent- stronger emphasis on family obligation and
adolescent conflicts. In one study, mothers assistance than do adolescents from European
and fathers were more likely to experience backgrounds (Hardway & Fuligni. 2006).
tense interactions with their adolescents when Cultural comparisons generally show sizable
they also had experienced work overloads or overlaps in descriptions of relationships across
home demands (Almeida et al., 1999). Tension differing cultural groups and equal or even
spillover was more likely for mothers with greater diversity within than between these
adolescents than for mothers with younger groups (Harkness & Super, 2002).
children. Other findings have revealed that Cultural gaps in the nature and significance
the link between parents' work pressures and of parent-adolescent interactions are espe-
adolescent well-being are mediated by parents' cially apparent in immigrant families. Parent-
sense of role overload (Crouter et al., 1999). adolescent relationships vary across immigrant
Having documented these problems. we still families and between immigrant families and
lack research that describes the processes by those of the host culture, reflecting parents'
which parents and adolescents adjust to the varied cultural and normative patterns. For
Conclusion 35

example,Asian American families in California respect for the child's opinions, and training
formal communication with for maturity seem to be most effective in help-
their parents than did either Hispanic American ing adolescents develop attitudes and behaviors
or E~~~~~~~ Anierican adolescents (Cooper, appropriate to their society. Arecent study of the
1~94). American youth also expressed impact of racial identity and parent-adolescent
higher levels of familistic values, emphasizing relationships on adolescent functioning illus-
the importance of respect for and duty toward trates the complexity of these links. A sam-
parents and family. Some cultures foster rela- ple of African American high school seniors
tively more attention to duty and filial piety revealed that correlations between racial iden-
than others (Hofstede. 1980). and these differ- tity and maternal support, on one hand, and
ences ,nay affect the degree to which adoles- depressive symptoms and anxiety, on the other,
cents evaluate their relationships with parents were mediated by perceived stress (Caldwell,
and siblings in terms of the quality of interac- Zimmerman, Bernat, Sellers, & Notaro. 2002).
tion. Research findings suggest that patterns It is clear that direct and indirect influ-
of parent-adolescent conflict differ between ences of relationships with parents extend to
immigrant and nonimmigrant families in the families in all cultures. However, the enter-
United States (Fuligni, 1998), but not between prise of amassing information on variations in
different nonimmigrant subgroups (Smetana & the nature of these links is still in its infancy.
Gaines, 1999). Similarly, Greek Australian Knowledge of indirect links is especially mea-
adolescents reported more tolerance and accep- ger. The next phase of research incorporating
tance of conflict than did Greek adolescents ethnic and cultural diversity must attend to the
reared in Greece, but Greek Australian par- more complex models of parenting that encom-
ents viewed conflict with their children much pass multiple possible pathways of influence.
as the parents living in Greece did (Rosenthal,
Demetriou, & Efklides. 1989).
Despite cultural and ethnic differences CONCLUSION
in the perceived qualities of relationships,
several studies have documented consistent Contemporary research with parents and
correlations between the characteristics of adolescents challenges traditional theoreti-
parental behavior toward adolescents and ado- cal and methodological approaches to adoles-
lescents' behavior and development. In one cent development. Conceptually, the growing
multiethnic sample, adolescents' perceptions body of findings on adolescents' close rela-
that their parents were authoritative, rather than tionships implies that adolescent development
authoritarian or neglectful, were correlated with can be understood more fully in the context
personal maturity, school achievement, and low of relationships with significant others and that
levels of behavioral and psychological prob- relationships with parents remain central to these
lems (for an overview, see Steinberg, 2001). contexts. MethodologicaUy, the findings imply
This correlation held for African Americans, the need for broadening the construct of ado-
Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans. and lescent outcomes to incorporate interpersonal
European Americans alike. Similarly, percep- competencies and developmental changes in
tions of parental rejection have been found to thern and also to adopt more complex models of
be correlated with poor individual outcomes the processes through which parent-adolescent
in a number of different cultures (Rohner & relationships have an impact. The key task is to
Pettingill, 1985; Rohner & Rohner, 198 1). understand not only the developing individual,
In other words, although typical patterns of but also the interplay between indivjdual growth
parental control may vary across cultures. fam- and change in the nature and developmental sig-
ily environments that emphasize mutuality, nificance of relationships with others.
36 Parent-Child Relationships During Adolescence

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