Aspects of Parent-Adolescent Relationship and Associations with Adolescent Risk Behaviors over Time

Sabina Kapetanovic

Background

Among parents’ most fundamental responsibilities is to protect their children against being harmed or harming others. During adolescence, when young people spend time unsupervised, this has to be achieved through indirect means rather than via direct supervision. When parents have knowledge of their adolescents’ whereabouts, they can implement adequate parenting practices to protect their adolescents. The question is how such knowledge is obtained. In the current study, we investigated whether parents gain knowledge through parental solicitation and control, or through adolescents’ voluntary disclosure. We also tested whether parents’ confidence in their parenting, and parent-adolescent connectedness are psychosocial correlates of parental knowledge. We also tested whether these family processes directly and indirectly predict adolescent engagement in risk behaviors over time and whether links deferred between boys and girls.

Method

In this study, we used the data from 550 parent-adolescent dyads (Adolescent Mage at T1: 13.0 (±0.56); T2: 14.3 (±0.61) from an ongoing research program Longitudinal Research on Development In Adolescence (LoRDIA), which investigates adolescents’ health, school functioning, social networks, and substance use.

Parents responded to questions about parental knowledge, solicitation and control, adolescent disclosure, parent-adolescent connectedness and parenting competence. Adolescents responded to questions about their substance use (alcohol and tobacco) and delinquency at T1 and T2. Structural equation modelling with moderation was used to obtain the results.

Results

Adolescent disclosure, parental solicitation and control were positively associated with parental knowledge. Parent-adolescent connectedness was positively related to adolescent disclosure, parental solicitation and control and indirectly to parental knowledge. Parenting competence was positively related to adolescent disclosure, parental solicitation and control and both directly and indirectly, through the three sources of knowledge, related to parental knowledge.

Parental solicitation was directly and positively related to delinquency and substance use at T1. Adolescent disclosure was directly and negatively related to delinquency and substance use at both time points, and parental knowledge was negatively related to substance use at both time points. Parental control had an indirect negative association with substance use at both time points. Both parenting competence and adolescents’ connectedness to their parents were indirectly and negatively related to risk behaviors at both time points.

Adolescent gender moderated some links. The link between parent-adolescent connectedness and parental control, and the link between adolescent disclosure and delinquent behavior at baseline, was stronger for girls than for boys. The link between delinquent behavior at T1 and T2 and between substance use at T1 and T2 were stronger for boys than for girls.

Conclusion

Open communication between parents and their adolescents is important for adolescent development. Building close parent-adolescent relationships and strengthening parents’ trust in themselves may enhance open communication between parents and adolescents. When open communication is established, parents may have better opportunities to protect their adolescents from engagement in risk behaviors without being intrusive.

Contact: sabina.kapetanovic@ju.se

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