The Relationship between Type A Parenting and Adolescent Perceptions of Family Environment

By Forgays, Deborah Kirby | Adolescence, Winter 1996 | Go to article overview
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The Relationship between Type A Parenting and Adolescent Perceptions of Family Environment


Forgays, Deborah Kirby, Adolescence


The Type A Behavior Pattern (TABP) has been characterized as a composite of behaviors, including time-urgency, hostility, competitiveness, control, and achievement orientation. Both retrospective and prospective studies have found an association between TABP and a number of aversive health outcomes in both men and women: coronary heart disease (Borzova, 1985; Dembroski & Czajkowski, 1989; Friedman & Rosenman, 1959;), angina (Haynes, Levin, Scotch, Feinleib, & Kannel, 1978), and cerebral vascular disorders (Suls & Sanders, 1988). Recent cross-sectional research with adults and adolescents has reported a relationship between TABP and psychosomatic complaints (Rappaport, McAnulty, & Phillip, 1988; Woods & Burns, 1984); coworker tension (Sorensen et al., 1987), alcohol and tobacco use (Forgays, Forgays, Wrzesniewski, & Bonaiuto, 1993a, 1993b), and parenting stress (Forgays, 1991; Guarino, Forgays, Forgays, & D'Alessio, 1993). Yet, while relationships between Type A Behavior Pattern and these negative health, interpersonal, and life style outcomes have been comprehensively examined over the past three decades, research on factors that may encourage the development of this behavior pattern has been relatively sparse. An understanding of how TABP develops is key to determining if these negative outcomes can to be averted through early intervention or prevention programs.

In the absence of prospective data, one logical approach to the question of how a child develops TABP is the examination of current Type A parent-child relationships. Based on social learning theory, parental modeling of Type A behaviors serves as the vehicle for transmission of Type A characteristics to the child. Children observe their parents engaging in Type A behaviors and then practice these behaviors themselves, probably receiving passive reinforcement through identification and active reinforcement from the parental model. Thus, children of Type A parents are presumed to exhibit more Type A behaviors than do children of Type B parents. Further, social learning theory would also predict the same-gender parent-child pairs will result in more Type A congruence than will opposite-gender parent-child pairs.

Research Support for Developmental Antecedents of Type A Behavior

The majority of research examining TABP in parents and their children has found a direct influence of TABP in parents on the expression of Type A behaviors in their children (see Forgays & Forgays, 1991 for a detailed review). These examinations of child and parent Type A patterns have encompassed a broad developmental range: preschool (Vega-Lahr & Field, 1986), elementary age (Sweda, Sines, Lauer, & Clarke, 1986; Weidner, Sexton, Matarazzo, Pereira, & Friend, 1988), and adolescence through young adulthood (Bortner, Roesenman, & Friedman, 1970; Matthews & Krantz, 1976) with parent-child Type A patterns evident at each developmental period. However, when one searches for consistent parent-child patterns across age or by gender, the picture is less clear. Every possible Type A parent-child combination has been found - father-daughter, mother-son, mother-daughter, father-son. Some of the variability in findings may be due to a methodological problem in measurement, the use of noncomparable TABP measures or those with poor psychometric properties (Forgays & Forgays, 1991; Jackson & Levine, 1987; Nay & Wanger, 1987). In the majority of these studies, Type A was assessed by self-report inventories for the parents and by other-report inventories for the children rather than using identical measures standardized for both developmental populations. More recently, researchers have acknowledged this limitation and have responded with improved designs.

However, even when parent child TABP comparisons are performed with identical measures, specific parent-child patterns by gender are not consistently identified.

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