Parents' and Teachers' Perceptions of Adolescent Storm and Stress: Relations with Parenting and Teaching Styles

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REVIEW OF THE PROBLEM

Even though researchers have suggested that less than 10% of families with adolescents experience serious relationship difficulties (Holmbeck, 1996) and that only 15-30% of adolescents experience serious developmental difficulties, adolescence has long been characterized by developmental theorists as a troubled period charged by hormonal factors which contribute to fluctuations in adolescent behaviors. Since G. Stanley Hall's (1904) characterization of the adolescent period as one of "sturm und drang" or "storm and stress," many theorists have portrayed adolescence as a troubled and unique period of the life cycle, and have continued to describe adolescents as incapable of rational thought and whose behaviors are in constant conflict with family and societal norms. In particular, the predominant theoretical views that have evolved since the early twentieth century have conceptualized "storm and stress" in terms of three specific characteristics: (a) parent-adolescent conflict, (b) emotional moodiness, and (c) risk-taking behaviors. The views of adolescents voiced by parents, teachers, and even health professionals, and presented in the media and in fictional literature, have perpetuated the stereotypic portrayal of adolescents as moody, emotional, and rebellious.

Much of the early research on adolescence was based on those adolescents whose behaviors were likely to gain attention, thereby confirming the view of a non-diverse population of adolescents engaged in stormy and stressful behaviors. Current research, however, has reexamined adolescent moods and behaviors and does not tend to support a pervasive rebellious characterization of the typical adolescent, nor does it support storm and stress as universal and inevitable (Arnett, 1999; Buchanan, Eccles, & Becker, 1992; Laurson, Coy, & Collins, 1998). Instead, low to moderate levels of conflictual behavior, moodiness, and risk-taking have been found to be more normative outcomes of the transitions of adolescence.

In particular, research on parent-adolescent conflict has shown that the progression to becoming an autonomous individual does not typically involve stress and turmoil, and any emotional detachment does not necessarily involve overt behaviors that repudiate parental values (Montemayor, 1983; Steinberg, 1990). Adolescents' demonstrations of autonomy may compete with conventional parenting goals of household management, expectations, standards, and discipline (Smetana, Yau, Restrpo, & Braeges, 1991), and contribute to increased parental efforts to delay the adolescent search for gratification in order to conform to family and social rules (Montemayor, 1983). Dekovic (2002) reported that the fit between parents' and adolescents' expectations influenced the degree to which disagreements were developmentally normative. Family conflict may increase in early adolescence and its frequency may be highest during this time (Holmbeck & Hill, 1988; Laursen et al., 1998; Paikoff & Brooks-Gunn, 1991), but these disagreements involve minor issues and are not long-lasting and pervasive. Most conflict is related to household responsibilities and privileges and involves issues such as apparel, music, or curfew, rather than basic values (Coleman, 1977; Montemayor, 1983). Smetana and Gaines (1999) summarized the views of many researchers by noting that parent-adolescent conflicts are common, but they are usually over mundane issues and rarely reach levels that could be construed as severe.

Similarly, research on adolescent emotions and moodiness also has failed to support a storm and stress view (Csikszentmihalyi & Larson, 1984). However, the presence of minor disagreements does not suggest that they are not marked with emotionality. Although the onset of puberty may influence the presence of irritability and impulsivity, adolescents may demonstrate intensities in affect in certain situations, and such intensifications of emotions may be by-products of transitions within the period of adolescence (Larson & Richards, 1994). …