Young South African Adults' Perceptions of Parental Psychological Control and Antisocial Behavior

By Roman, Nicolette Vanessa; Human, Anja et al. | Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, August 10, 2012 | Go to article overview

Young South African Adults' Perceptions of Parental Psychological Control and Antisocial Behavior


Roman, Nicolette Vanessa, Human, Anja, Hiss, Donavon, Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal


We extended prior research by investigating perceptions of parental psychological control as a contributor to young adults' antisocial behavior in a sample of 382 South African university students aged between 18 and 25 years. Barber's (1996) measure of parental psychological control and the Youth Self-Report (Achenbach & Edelbrock, 1987) questionnaires were administered for data collection. A positive relationship was found between parental psychological control and the antisocial behavior of young adults. Additionally, the results of the hierarchical regression analysis suggest that maternal psychological control, compared to paternal psychological control, was a stronger predictor of antisocial behavior.

Keywords: young adults, psychological control, parenting, antisocial behavior.

It is an almost "normal" assumption that when young people leave the phase of adolescence they will "settle down" and become adults. However, according to Arnett (2000), adulthood does not automatically start after adolescence. He suggests that there is another phase before adulthood, which he conceptualized as emerging adulthood or young adulthood. In terms of societal perceptual assumptions, there is an acceptance that young adults have left the phase of "storm and stress" and experimental behavior, which often includes antisocial behavior, to become focused on decisions about the future (Arnett, 2007). Antisocial behavior is defined as external behavioral traits with regard to not obeying rules and laws (Baumrind, 2005). However, Arnett (2000, 2001, 2007) stated that young people between the ages of 18 and 25 years prolong the transition into adulthood and, therefore, the process of serious decision making regarding their lives in the future. Furthermore, young adults often continue to live with their parents and depend on them for financial and emotional support. Parents find themselves supporting young adults for a longer period of time than occurred in previous generations. Hence, as a result of financial constraints, young adults may continue to live in the parental home, instead of living on their own (Arnett, 2007).

The focus during the period of young adulthood is on the self, with young adults having to think about decisions regarding their futures (Arnett, 2009). In order to make their own decisions, young adults need to acquire a sense of independence. This sense of independence is acquired developmentally over a period of time, but becomes more prevalent during adolescence. An overview of adolescence reveals that during this stage of development young people are "in an active, purposeful 'flight' away from attachment relationships with parents" (Allen & Land, 1999, p. 319). These attachment bonds are viewed as a restraint from which young people want to break away in order to gain the freedom to develop autonomy and a sense of self-reliance (Allen & Land, 1999). During their children's adolescence, parents move from being solely controlling to allowing for transformation; an alteration of authority from parents holding all the power, to developing a relationship of equality with their children (Youniss & Smollar, 1985). This change suggests less control from parental figures, allowing emerging adults to gain decision-making skills, individuality, and, thus, growth in association with adult responsibilities. If parental control is not diminished it results in increased conflict between adolescents and parents (Allen & Land, 1999), such as the breaking of rules and antisocial behavior.

Thus, the role of the parent should be that of supporter rather than principal decision maker, based on the assumption that sound relationships exist between the young adults and their parents (Chipman, Frost Olsen, Klein, Hart, & Robinson, 2000; Lamborn & Groh, 2009). While young adults may need support from their parents, parents themselves may feel that they should be making the decisions for their children, especially if their children continue to live in the parental home. …

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