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Authoritative parenting has pluses for adolescents

Published on -8/25/2014, 8:34 AM

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This is the fourth article in a series on parenting adolescents.

Q: What are additional influences on parenting adolescents?

A: Regarding parenting styles and ethnicity, there are some differences by ethnicity that might be related to socioeconomic issues. Authoritative styles of parenting are more common in white families. Authoritarian parenting is more common among ethnic minorities. Ethnic cultures and parental beliefs might account for the prevalence of authoritarian parenting in some minority populations.

In addition, ethnic minorities might live in dangerous neighborhoods where safety is a concern. Thus, parenting control and obeying parents is related to keeping children safe. In general, both white and minority children can benefit from authoritarian parenting, although white children are more likely than minority youth to have undesirable effects from this parenting style. A lot of early research on parenting styles was conducted with middle-class white families rather than a cross-section of white and minority families. Therefore, comparisons between cultures and styles might not apply among cultures.

In families, one parenting style dominates, although there is some variation due to mood changes, lack of sleep, stress and job pressures. Characteristics of individual adolescents, such as temperament and personality, also influence parenting.

Because researchers cannot program families to see how one parenting style compares with another, all things being equal, research cannot prove causality between parenting styles and adolescent behavior. Research can, however, state parenting styles are correlated with specific outcomes.

In the present American culture, authoritative parenting produces the most positive outcomes. The warm and firm approach attributed to authoritative parenting permits adolescents to be independent within developmentally appropriate limits and boundaries.

In a publication from the Undergraduate Research Community, researchers' conclusions were similar to those already reiterated. In regard to race and ethnicity, the most effective parenting style in preventing adolescent health-risk behavior is authoritarian parenting. Health-risk behaviors include smoking cigarettes and abusing drugs or alcohol.

Regarding the effect of divorce and single-parenting on adolescents, past research has been inconclusive. Researchers report small differences between intact and divorced families regarding academic performance, delinquency and self-esteem. One of the problems with evaluating children of divorced families is negative outcomes might be due to other problems that led to divorce, such as economic hardships and parental conflicts.

In terms of possible influences of family structures on teen identity development in education and occupations, as well as gender role values in marriage, family and job choice, several factors were identified as important mediating forces that shaped teen identity. These were maternal employment, family dynamics and parental expectations.

Two parents staying together who are highly conflicted might not be as beneficial to children as having parents who separate. Single-parent households offer some socialization opportunities for adolescents that might be helpful. Children in single, female-headed households might develop greater senses of responsibility and better self-esteem. Furthermore, both boys and girls might develop fewer gender role stereotypes regarding occupational choices and family roles and values. The above research regarding the effect of divorce and single parenting was written by Bonnie L. Bouber, Pennsylvania State University, and Jacquelynne S. Eccles, University of Colorado.

In an article about the positive and protective effects of good parenting, authors present research that emphasizes research on parenting styles. Elise R. DeVore, from the Division of Adolescent/Young Adult Medicine, Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and Kenneth R. Ginsburg from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Adolescent Medicine, and University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, emphasize the effect of sound parenting.

In a 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, data revealed adolescent risky behaviors are declining since 1991. However, risky behaviors in high school students remain a concern. These were 27.5 percent smoking cigarettes, 44.9 percent who had at least one drink in the preceding month, 28.3 percent who had binged with five or more drinks in the previous month, and 22.5 percent who had used pot in the past month. All substance use except pot and steroids has declined since 1991. In regard to sexual behavior, 46.7 percent reported having had sex, 14.4 percent had four or more partners, and 34.3 percent were active sexually.

This research also addressed many factors in parenting styles. Parents who were authoritative had adolescents with higher grades, and parents who were supportive and involved also had adolescents with higher academic achievements.

Parental monitoring is protective for teens. But the most effective parenting that prevents deviant teen behavior is that which facilitates communication. Parental monitoring also is beneficial, especially in youth living in poverty. Studies have demonstrated the protective effect of parental monitoring on unprotected sex, drug use and drug dealing continued as the adolescent groups aged.

Parental practices profoundly affect teen development. Research has documented the positive effects of authoritative parenting, supervision and open communication in raising adolescents.

* Next week's article will begin to explore effective parenting strategies for parenting adolescents.

Judy Caprez is associate professor

of social work at Fort Hays State University. Send your questions

in care of the department

of sociology and social work.

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