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Maternal Psychological Control: Links to Close Friendship and Depression in Early Adolescence. Heather L. Tencer Jessica R. Meyer Felicia D. Hall University of Virginia Society for Research in Child Development April 2003. Abstract.

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maternal psychological control links to close friendship and depression in early adolescence
Maternal Psychological Control: Links to Close Friendship and Depression in Early Adolescence

Heather L. Tencer

Jessica R. Meyer

Felicia D. Hall

University of Virginia

Society for Research in Child Development

April 2003

abstract
Abstract

Research suggests that adolescents exposed to psychological control are more likely to become depressed and associate with more deviant peer groups. It is not clear, however, how this form of parenting may relate to the development of close friendships. The current study assessed the extent to which psychological control can be used to predict changes in friendship behavior. In addition, we examined the association between psychological control and depressive symptoms. Data were obtained on a sample of 152 adolescents and their friends at ages 13 and 14. Results revealed that adolescents who felt more psychological control from their mothers became less valuing, engaged, and satisfied in discussions with their friends, over the one-year period. Psychologically controlled teens were also more likely to report symptoms of depression at age 14. Last, interactions with gender were present, suggesting that females are more affected than males by psychological control. In sum, this study implies that coercive and intrusive parenting may set the stage for difficulties in maintaining friends.

introduction
Introduction
  • Psychological control is a type of parenting behavior that is both intrusive and coercive to an adolescent’s thoughts and emotions. It is demonstrated mainly through covert strategies, such as guilt induction and love withdrawal (Silk et al., 2003).
  • Psychological control has been linked with:
    • High rates of internalizing behaviors, including depression, anxiety, and poor self-confidence (Barber, 1996; Conger, Conger, & Scaramella, 1997)
    • Association with deviant peer groups (Mason et al., 1996)
  • Because psychological control occurs in the context of a close relationship, it is likely that it also contributes to the quality of one’s interactions with friends. To date, no other studies have examined the behavior of psychologically controlled teenagers with their friends.
central questions
Central Questions
  • What are the friendship behaviors of adolescents who perceive their mothers as psychologically controlling?
  • To what extent do psychologically controlled adolescents report higher levels of depression?
  • Do the outcomes associated with psychological control differ for males versus females?
method
Method

Sample characteristics.Data were collected from 152 adolescents (53% female) and their close friends 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.

Parenting measure.Psychological control is a type of coercive, passive-aggressive, and intrusive control that is characterized by hostility towards the adolescent (Barber, 1996; Silk et al., 2003). The Childhood Report of Parenting Behavior Inventory (CRPBI) was used to assess adolescent reports of maternal psychological control (Schaefer, 1965). Table 1 includes two sample items of this measure.

method cont d
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 8 minutes. These interactions were videotaped and subsequently coded for four behaviors: valuing, engagement, satisfaction, and warmth. Table 1 includes a brief description of each behavior.

Depression measure.A version of the Childhood Depression Inventory (CDI) was used to assess depression in this sample (Kovacs & Beck, 1977). Sample items from this measure are shown in Table 1.

Demographics.Adolescent age, gender, ethnicity, and family income were obtained using a measure of basic demographic information.

results
Results

Table 2 presents the means and standard deviations of all variables in the study. Hierarchical regression analyses were performed to assess maternal psychological control as a predictor of: (1) change in friendship behaviors over a one-year period (see Tables 3-4) and (2) adolescent depression scores at age 14 (Table 5). Gender, age, and minority status were included as covariates in each model.

Friendship outcomes. Maternal psychological control was related to adolescents demonstrating less valuing, less engagement, less satisfaction, and less overall warmthwith their friends over time. In addition, the friends of adolescents who were psychologically controlled became less valuing in their own behavior by age 14.

results cont d
Results (cont’d)

Depression. Adolescents who perceived greater psychological control from their mothers reported more depressive symptoms than other adolescents.

Moderating effects. A final set of analyses was performed to examine gender as a possible moderator of these outcomes. There was a stronger relation between psychological control and outcomes for females than males. As shown in Figure 1, psychological control was associated with greater declines in warmth among females. Similarly, females were more likely to report depression when they felt psychological controlled than were males (see Figure 2).

discussion
Discussion
  • In sum, this study provides initial support for the idea that psychological control is associated with close friendships. Adolescents who perceived more control by their mothers showed a decline in several positive behaviors with friends from ages 13 to 14.
  • In addition, this study replicated the previous finding that psychological control is related to increased internalizing symptoms (Pettit et al., 2001; Silk et al., 2003).
  • Finally, psychological control was more closely related to declines in warmth and depression for females than males.
  • It is suggested that future research continue to examine the friendship behavior of adolescents from controlling homes, which may in turn predict relationships in adulthood.
slide10

Table 1. Sample Items from Study Measures

  • Childhood Report of Parenting Behavior Inventory (CRPBI)

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.

  • Supportive Behavior Task (SBT)

Valuing – This code includes behaviors that suggest each person cares about and genuinely likes the other (e.g., verbally empathizing, validating, smiling).

Satisfaction – Assesses the extent to which the adolescent feels satisfied with and enjoys the discussion.

Engagement – Captures how well the adolescent is connected and engaged with their friend (e.g., eye contact, listening, asking questions).

Warmth – A sum score of warmth, including all of the above behaviors.

  • Childhood Depression Inventory (CDI)

I am sad all the time.

I hate myself.

slide12

Tables 3 and 4. Predicting Change over Time in Adolescent and Friend Valuing in the Supportive Behavior Task

Notes: ßs are from each variable’s first entry into the model; *p<.05, **p<.01, ***p<.001

slide13

Table 5. Predicting Adolescent Depression Scores at Age 14

Notes: ßs are from each variable’s first entry into the model; *p<.05, **p<.01, ***p<.001

slide14

Figure 1. Interaction of Psychological Control and Gender in Predicting Adolescent Warmth with Friends

references
References

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.

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

Barber, B.K. (2002). Intrusive parenting: How psychological control affects children and adolescents. Washington, DC: APA.

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.

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.

Mason, C.A., Cauce, A.M., Gonzales, N., & Hiraga, Y. (1996). Neither too sweet nor too sour: Problem peers, maternal control, and problem behavior in African American adolescents. Child Development, 67, 2115-2130.

Pettit, G.S., Laird, R.D., Dodge, K.A., Bates, J.E., & Criss, M.M. (2001). Antecedents and behavior-problem outcomes of parental monitoring and psychological control in early adolescence. Child Development, 72, 583-598.

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

Silk, J.S., Morris, A.S., Kanaya, T., & Steinberg, L. (2003). Psychological control and autonomy granting: Opposite ends of a continuum or distinct constructs? Journal of Research on Adolescence, 13(1), 113-128.

acknowledgements
Acknowledgements

We gratefully acknowledge support from the National Institute of Mental Health (Grants # R01 MH58066 and #1F31 MH 64216-01) to Joseph Allen (Principal Investigator) and Heather Tencer 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.