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Parental Advice Giving and Psychological Control: Links to Close Friendships and Behavioral Outcomes in Early Adolescence. Jessica Meyer Heather Tencer Felicia Smith Jennifer Haynes University of Virginia Society for Research in Adolescence March 2004. Abstract.

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Parental Advice Giving and Psychological Control: Links to Close Friendships and Behavioral Outcomes in Early Adolescence

Jessica Meyer

Heather Tencer

Felicia Smith

Jennifer Haynes

University of Virginia

Society for Research in Adolescence

March 2004


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Abstract

Many parents struggle with the desire to provide guidance during the transition to adolescence, yet also remain sensitive to adolescents’ desire to develop autonomy. There is a wealth of evidence that indicates that autonomy-undermining methods of parental influence relate to negative outcomes in adolescents. However, less is known about the implications of parental behaviors that attempt to influence adolescents while still supporting their individuation. The current study begins this process by examining the ways in which attempts at influence via psychological control versus advice-giving diverge in their prediction of social and behavioral outcomes for adolescents. Data were obtained on a sample of 185 adolescents at ages 13 and 14, their friends, and their parents. Results revealed that higher levels of parental advice-giving were linked to less adolescent depression, drug/alcohol use, and delinquency. In contrast, psychological control was linked to more adolescent depression and delinquency and weaker teen/parent relationships. Interestingly, both psychological control and advice-giving were associated with weaker teen/peer relationships over the one-year period.


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Introduction

  • Psychological control is a type of behavior in which the parent attempts to control the child’s or adolescent’s behavior through psychological means, such as guilt induction and manipulation (Schaefer, 1965).

  • Psychological control has been linked with:

    • High rates of externalizing behaviors, including delinquency and drug/alcohol use(Gray & Steinberg, 1999; Pettit & Laird, 2002)

    • High rates of internalizing behaviors, including depression, anxiety, and poor self-confidence(Barber, 1996; Conger, Conger, & Scaramella, 1997)

  • Although undermining adolescents’ autonomy carries the risk of impeding adolescents’ separation from parents and progress into the peer world, littleis known about the effects of psychological control on adolescents’ relations with parents or peers.


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Introduction (cont’d)

  • In contrast, supportivestyles of parental involvement foster the individuation process and relate to positive psychological outcomes in adolescence (Barber & Erickson, 2001).

  • However, supportive adolescent-parent processes involve minimal attempts to influence youth behavior per se.

  • Interestingly, little is known about the behaviors that parents use to influence their adolescents, while still supporting their individuation (e.g., without intrusiveness, strict regulation or manipulation).


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Central Questions

  • Do parents exert influence over the behavior of their adolescents simply by providing advice and suggestions, and how does this influence compare to the effects of psychological control on the behavioral outcomes of adolescents?

  • How do parental attempts at influence via advice-giving differ from psychological control in their prediction of social developmental outcomes?

  • Will youth perceive these methods of parental influence as autonomy-promoting or autonomy-undermining?


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Method

Sample characteristics.Data were collected from 185 adolescents (53% female), their close friends, and their parents, who were recruited from a public middle school. Adolescents were 13 years of age at Time 1 of the study and 14 years at Time 2. The sample was composed of Caucasians, African-Americans, and other minorities (58%, 29%, and 13%, respectively). The median family income was $43,700, with a range of $2,500 to over $70,000.


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Method (cont’d)

Parenting measures.The Childhood Report of Parenting Behavior Inventory (CRPBI) was used to assess both adolescent and maternal reports of maternal psychological control(Schaefer, 1965). The Ways Parents Influence Questionnaire (WPIQ) was used to assess both adolescent and maternal reports of parental advice-giving (Allen & Hall, 2000).

  • Sample Items - Childhood Report of Parenting Behavior Inventory

    My mother would like to be able to tell me what to do all the time.

    My mother is less friendly with me if I do not see things her way.

  • Sample Items - Ways Parents Influence Questionnaire

    My parents explain to me who I should hang out with and what I should do with my friends.


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Method (cont’d)

Friendship measure.The Supportive Behavior Task (SBT) was used to measure adolescents’ and their friends’ behaviors during a discussion (Allen et al., 2003). Each adolescent was asked to talk about a problem with their friend for a period of 6 minutes. These interactions were videotaped and subsequently coded.

Parent/adolescent relationship measure.The Supportive Behavior Task (SBT) was also used to measure adolescents’ and their parents’ behaviors during an 8-minute discussion about a problem.

Engagement - How well the adolescent is engaged with their friend (e.g., eye contact, listening, asking questions).

Receptivity - Extent that the friend understands the concern raised by the adolescent and the adolescent feels satisfied with the friend’s attempts to address the problem.

Warmth - A sum score of three behaviors: warmth/mutual liking, engagement, and receptivity.


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Method (cont’d)

Depression measure.A version of the Childhood Depression Inventory (CDI) was used to assess adolescents’ self-reported depressive symptoms (Kovacs & Beck, 1977).

Delinquency measure.The Child Behavior Checklist-Youth Self-Report (YSR)was used to assess delinquent behavior in this sample (Achenbach & Edelbrock, 1987). The adolescents were asked to rate how well six delinquent behaviors applied to them during the previous six months.


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Method (cont’d)

Drug/alcohol use measure.Drug and alcohol use was measured in this sample using the Self-Perception Profile for Adolescents (Harter, 1988). Adolescents and their friends completed the measure about the target adolescents’ behaviors.

Autonomy measure.Autonomy and relatedness were measured using the Autonomy and Relatedness Observational Coding System (Allen et al., 1996). Each adolescent was asked to talk about an area of disagreement with their mother for a period of 8 minutes. These interactions were videotaped and subsequently coded.

Positive Autonomy – How well the adolescent demonstrates independence (e.g., stating reasons clearly for disagreeing, showing confidence in stating opinions).


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Results

  • Hierarchical regression analyses were performed to assess parental psychological control and advice-giving as predictors of:

  • change over time in teen and peer reports of teen drug/alcohol use, and teen self-reports of delinquency and depression

  • (2) change over time in observed supportive behaviors of teens and their peers

  • (3) observed supportive behaviors of teens and their mothers

  • (4) observed autonomy of teen with their mothers

  • Gender, age, and minority status were included as covariates in each regression model.



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Results: Predicting Adolescent Behavioral Outcomes

Behavioral/psychological outcomes. Adolescents who received more psychological control from their mothers reported more depressive symptoms and more delinquent behaviors than other adolescents. In contrast, parental advice-giving was related to less delinquency, less drug/alcohol use, and less depression.



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Results: Predicting Adolescent Friendship Outcomes

Friendship outcomes. Maternal psychological control was related to adolescents and their friends demonstrating less warmth, less receptivity, and less engagementover time. Likewise, advice-giving was linked to adolescents and their friends demonstrating less warmth and less receptivity over time.



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Results: Predicting Parent/Adolescent Outcomes

Parent/adolescent relationships. Maternal psychological control was related to adolescents and their parents demonstrating less engagement and less receptivity in an interaction task.


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Results: Predicting Adolescent Autonomy with Mother

Adolescent autonomy with parents. Parentaladvice-giving was related to adolescents demonstrating less positive autonomy with their mothers, while psychological control was not related to adolescent autonomy.


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Discussion

  • In sum, this study provides initial support for the idea that parental advice-giving is related to both behavioral and social developmental outcomes in adolescents.

  • This study indicates that parental advice-giving is related to improvements in adolescents’ psychological functioning, while psychological control is related to declines in adolescents’ psychological functioning over a one-year period.

  • However, both parental advice-giving and psychological control are related to declines in adolescents’ social functioning over a one-year period.

  • Parental advice-giving diminishes positive autonomy in adolescence, which may prohibit teens’ successful transition into the peer group and disrupt teens’ relationships with their friends. Psychological control is linked to negative relatedness in adolescent/parent relationships, which may carry over and negatively affect teens’ relatedness with their peers.


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References

Achenbach, T.M., & Edelbrock, C. (1987). Manual for the youth self report and profile. Burlington, VT: University of Vermont, Department of Psychiatry.

Allen, J.P. & Hall, F.D. (2000). Ways Parents Influence Questionnaire. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia,

Department of Psychology.

Allen, J.P., Hall, F.D., Insabella, G.M., Land, D.J., Marsh, P.A., & Porter, M.R. (2003). Supportive Behavior Task Coding Manual. Unpublished manuscript. University of Virginia.

Allen, J.P. Hauser, S., Bell, K. L., Boykin, K.A., & Tate, D.C. (1996). Autonomy and relatedness coding system manual. Unpublished manuscript. University of Virginia, Charlottesville.

Barber, B.K. (1996). Parental psychological control: Revisiting a neglected construct. Child Development, 67, 3296-3319.

Barber, B.K. & Erickson, L.D. (2001). Adolescent social initiative: Antecedents in the ecology of social connections. Journal of Adolescent Research, 16(4),326-354.

Conger, K.J., Conger, R.D., & Scaramella, L.V. (1997). Parents, siblings, psychological control, and adolescent adjustment. Journal of Adolescent Research, 12(1), 113-138.

Gray, M.R. & Steinberg, L. (1999). Unpacking authoritative parenting: Reassessing a multidimensional construct. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 61, 574-587.

Harter, S. (1988). Manual for the Self-Perception Profile for Adolescents. Denver, CO: University of Denver.

Kovacs, M., & Beck, A.T. (1977). An empirical clinical approach toward a definition of childhood depression. In J.G. Schulterbrandt & A. Raskin (Eds.), Depression in children: Diagnosis, treatment, and conceptual models (pp. 1-25). New York: Raven Press.

Pettit, G.S. & Laird, R.D. (2002). Psychological control and monitoring in early adolescence: The role of parental involvement and earlier child adjustment. In B.K. Barber (Ed.), Intrusive parenting: How psychological control affects children and adolescents(pp.97-123). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Schaefer, E.S. (1965). Children’s report of parental behavior: An inventory. Child Development, 36, 413-424.


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Acknowledgements

We gratefully acknowledge support from the National Institute of Mental Health and Joseph Allen (Principal Investigator) for the conduct and write-up of this study.

Copies of this poster and related work in our lab are available at http://faculty.virginia.edu/allen.


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