Parenting Stress in Parents of Hispanic Adolescents

Article excerpt

Interrelations between parenting stress, quality of parent-adolescent relationship, and communication between parents and adolescents were studied in a sample of 124 Hispanic parents (62 mothers and 62 fathers) of adolescents. Parents responded to two subscales of the Stress Index for Parents of Adolescents (SIPA; Sheras, Abidin, & Konold, 1998), and the Parent Adolescent Communication Scale (PACS; Barnes & Olson, 1982). As expected, a closer and mutually supportive parent-adolescent relationship, and better communication between parents and adolescents were both associated with lower levels of parenting stress. However, a higher level of stress in mothers was not found, as in earlier studies. Results are discussed in the light of specific sample as well as cultural characteristics.

Parenting characteristics have been linked to developmental outcomes in children (Domitrovich & Bierman, 2001) and adolescents (Lamborn, Mounts, Steinberg & Dornbusch, 1991), and identified as a crucial component of children's social context. At the same time, there is a general consensus that parenting is perhaps the most difficult role that adults play. There is no explicit preparation for the inherently ill-defined parenting role in the course of socialization (Coleman, 1997; Pasley & Gecas, 1984), especially for men, and parents have to make decisions for children in a constantly changing world, thus increasing the uncertainty about the appropriateness of those decisions. It is hardly surprising then, that all parents experience a certain amount of stress associated with parenting. Indeed parenting stress itself has been recognized as a central variable determining parenting behaviors.

In his model of determinants of parenting behavior, Abidin (1992) visualized parenting stress as a result of parents' judgment of present threats and supports available to them. This stress in turn could produce motivational arousal and lead parents to maximize available physical and psychological resources to succeed in parenting. The success of parenting is determined by the availability and competent use of resources. Empirically, even low levels of stress may lead to ineffectual parenting (Abidin, 1992), which can take the form of a lowered ability to read the child's signals and needs accurately, and respond to them effectively.

Parenting stress may be compounded as children enter adolescence. Most scholars agree that while a majority of families usher their children through adolescence to young adulthood with a fair amount of success and satisfaction, navigating adolescence is rather tricky due to the combination of developmental tasks of adolescence and the likely mid-life challenges confronting parents. The key challenge in the parent-adolescent relationship is accommodating distance while maintaining attachment (Williams, 2003). Adolescents desire greater privacy in their pursuit to individuate themselves from their parents, and parents find it difficult to relinquish the control they have enjoyed, which is sometimes prompted by an anxiety for the safety of the adolescent (Petronio, 1994). Also, increasing sociocognitive skills in the adolescents, such as perspective-taking and coordinating multiple perspectives, can lead them to question their parents' authority and increase the chances of argumentation.

In addition to issues related to control, obstacles in communication appear during adolescence because of the awkwardness induced by pubertal changes and emerging sexuality (Henricson & Roker, 2000), and a general embarrassment in talking about sex and drugs (Coleman, 1997). This turbulence in communication cannot come at a worse time, since effective communication within the family is especially important in facilitating identity formation during adolescence (Barnes & Olson, 1985). Parents who can communicate effectively are better able to express their values and beliefs to adolescents (Small & Eastman, 1991), and adolescents who perceive their parents as more responsive are more likely to seek their parents' advice (Bednar & Fisher, 2003). …