Maternal and Paternal Parenting during Adolescence: Forecasting Early Adult Psychosocial Adjustment

Article excerpt


This study investigated the relationship of maternal and paternal parenting behavior (acceptance and firm control) during adolescence to four domains of early adult functioning (internalizing problems, externalizing problems, prosocial competence, and cognitive competence). Twenty-one females and 29 males from intact families, along with their mothers and fathers, participated. Assessments were conducted in adolescence and early adulthood, separated by approximately five and one-half years. Higher levels of maternal firm control during adolescence were associated with more secure early adult romantic attachment and lower levels of educational achievement. There were no main effects for fathers, but paternal parenting behavior interacted with maternal parenting behavior to predict both early adult romantic attachment and delinquency. Clinical implications and directions for future research are discussed.

Adolescence has been referred to as a time of "storm and stress" (Hall, 1904; Montemayor, 1983). Although it is now recognized that this may be somewhat overstated (Gecas & Seff, 1990), there is little question that mothers and fathers find parenting during the adolescent period difficult (Epstein, Bishop, & Baldwin, 1982; Montemayor, 1983; Pasely & Gecas, 1984). Additionally, research has long provided convincing evidence that parenting behavior during this period is an important determinant of offspring outcomes (e.g., Patterson & Stouthamer-Loeber, 1984).

In her seminal work on the socialization of competence, Baumrind (1968, 1971) reported that positive adjustment in children and adolescents is associated with authoritative parenting, which is characterized by acceptance (i.e., warmth, support, nurturance, love) and firm, consistent control (i.e., discipline, supervision, monitoring). Results of research in this area support Baumrind's work (Barber & Rollins, 1990; Baumrind, 1991a, 1991b; Maccoby & Martin, 1983; Peterson & Rollins, 1987). Parenting characterized by acceptance and firm control is associated, for adolescents, with enhanced school performance (Dornbusch, Ritter, Liederman, Roberts, & Fraleigh, 1987; Forehand & Nousianen, 1993; Steinberg, Elmen, & Mounts, 1989; Steinberg, Lamborn, Darling, Mounts, & Dornbusch, 1994; Steinberg, Lamborn, Dornbusch, & Darling, 1992) and general psychosocial adjustment (Basic Behavioral Science Task Force of the National Advisory Mental Health Council, 1996; Fauber, Forehand, Thomas, & Weirson, 1990; Lamborn, Mounts , Steinberg & Dornbusch, 1991; Steinberg, Lamborn, Darling, Mounts, & Dornbusch, 1994; Weiss & Schwarz, 1996). Conversely, parenting that lacks these qualities is linked to adolescent substance use (Barnes & Farrell, 1992; Baumrind, 1991a) and behavioral difficulties (Barnes & Farrell, 1992; Forehand, Miller, Dutra, & Chance, 1997; Forehand & Nousianen, 1993; Lamborn, Mounts, Steinberg, & Dornbusch, 1991; Patterson & Dishion, 1988; Patterson & Stouthamer-Loeber, 1984; Steinberg et al., 1994).

While the correlation between parenting behavior and adolescent outcomes continues to be an important and worthwhile focus of study, far less research has been devoted to identifying long-term correlates of parenting behavior during adolescence. Specifically, early adulthood has been somewhat neglected in the parenting literature. Much still needs to be learned about the association between parenting during adolescence and early adult psychosocial adjustment.

Interestingly, while some studies suggest that parenting is an important predictor of early adult outcomes (e.g., Amato, 1994; Roberts & Bengtson, 1993, 1996), other studies have found that the effects of parenting diminish after adolescence (Sim & Vuchinich, 1996). Conflicting results may be due, at least in part, to methodological limitations. First, much of the research on the association between parenting and young adult adjustment has relied on retrospective accounts (Amato, 1994). …