Handbook of Parenting - Vol. 1

By Marc H. Bornstein | Go to book overview

4
Parenting Adolescents
Laurence Steinberg
Jennifer S. Silk
Temple University

INTRODUCTION

The family's transition out of middle childhood brings with it a new set of issues and concerns for parents and children that arise when the interpersonal equilibrium established during middle childhood is perturbed by the intraindividual and contextual changes associated with early adolescence. Although the vast majority of families are able to negotiate this transition successfully, establishing a new equilibrium as well as surviving the temporary period of disequilbrium that precedes it, this period challenges the emotional resources of even the most well-functioning families. Indeed, when parents are asked which period in their child's development that they are most nervous and apprehensive about, adolescence tops the list (Pasley and Gecas, 1984).

Part of parents' anxiety about adolescence no doubt stems from widespread and erroneous stereotypes of adolescents as difficult, oppositional, and moody—stereotypes that pervade popular culture, fill the pages of parenting magazines, and define the content of advice books aimed at parents with teenagers. Even a cursory glance at the titles of the books and articles aimed at this market suggests that surviving, rather than thriving, is the goal toward which parents should strive. The contrast between the tenor of books written about parenting infants and those written about parenting adolescents is striking. As we have noted elsewhere (Steinberg, 2001), the parenting sections of bookstores are stocked with books advising parents on how to enjoy and promote the development of their cuddly infants alongside volumes on how to discipline their spiteful and problem-ridden teenagers.

Although some portion of parents' apprehensiveness about adolescence is rooted in misinformation, not all of it is. Some measure of parental anxiety is no doubt warranted by the very real fact that adolescence is a period of dramatic change in the child's physical, cognitive, emotional, and social competencies and concerns. With the possible exception of toddlerhood (Edwards and Liu, in Vol. 1 of this Handbook)—the other period in the child's development about which parents are often

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