During adolescence, many young people take part in a wide range of risk behaviors, such as drinking, stealing or fighting with peers. At the same time, parents are required to support and guide their adolescents to make healthy developmental trajectories possible. In this study, we examined the associations between parental knowledge and its sources, adolescent disclosure, parental control, parental solicitation, and adolescent feelings of being overly controlled. We further studied the relations from parental knowledge and its sources, and feelings of being overly controlled, to three types of risk behavior in adolescence, bullying; delinquent behavior; and substance use. Finally, we examined whether these relations are moderated by gender.
In this study, we used first wave of data from an ongoing research program Longitudinal Research on Development In Adolescence (LoRDIA), which investigates adolescents’ health, school functioning, social networks, and substance use.
In total, 1520 Swedish adolescents (Mage 13.0 (±0.59), 50.6% girls) responded to questions about their bullying, delinquent behavior, substance use and relationship to parents. To study relations between variables, we applied path analyses with full-information maximal likelihood within structural equation modeling. We also tested direct and indirect effects, and conducted multi-group analyses to address the question of moderation.
Only adolescent voluntary disclosure and parental control contributed to parental knowledge of adolescents’ whereabouts. Parental knowledge was negatively related to all studied risk behaviors (i.e. bullying, delinquent behavior, and substance use). Further, the findings revealed that adolescent voluntary sharing of information to parents is protective of their engagement in all studied risk behaviors, both indirectly, via parental knowledge, but also directly. Parental solicitation, on the other hand, was associated with higher levels of involvement in delinquent behavior and substance use. Adolescent feelings of being overly controlled was related to higher levels of adolescent bullying.
In terms of gender moderation, the paths between adolescent feelings of being overly controlled and adolescent bullying, adolescent disclosure and delinquent behaviors, and between parental solicitation and delinquent behavior, were significant for boys but not for girls.
Open communication between parents and adolescents, where adolescents willingly share information about their activities, may give parents opportunity to give advice and guidance in a way which adolescents do not perceive as intrusive. When adolescents perceive too strict parental control, that may provoke more, instead of less, engagement in risk behaviors. These findings are particularly relevant for boys.
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