Pathways through Adolescence: Individual Development in Relation to Social Contexts

By Lisa J. Crockett; Ann C. Crouter | Go to book overview
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that adolescents are driven to dependence on peers when parents fail to nurture healthy social-psychological development. Others have found that parents' excessive overcontrol or undercontrol of adolescents heightens their peer orientation or susceptibility to peer pressure ( Fuligni & Eccles, 1993; Steinberg, 1987). In essence, the lack of meaningful guidance from parents that underlay assignment to the inhibitive parenting category promotes a heavier dependence on peer-group norms and pressures, so that behavioral differences among members of different crowds are much sharper.

In some respects, our findings suggest that parents have more to lose than to gain in their childrearing practices during adolescence. Only those with offspring in adaptive or neutral peer contexts could hope for their children to benefit substantially from facilitative parenting -- and even then, only with reference to prosocial behaviors such as academic effort or achievement. Of course, we examined only a handful of outcomes; we have no idea how consistently the patterns we observed would generalize to other prosocial or antisocial behaviors. Considering the inconsistencies of patterns across demographic niches, it would be foolish to put much faith in the generalizability of our results. Nevertheless, the findings do seem to underscore the importance of adolescents' association with particular types of peer groups. Here, too, of course, parenting plays a key role -- particularly during childhood -- in directing young people to certain types of peer groups or nurturing behavior patterns that will predispose youth to adaptive or maladaptive peer crowds ( Brown et al., 1993; Dishion, 1990; Feldman & Wentzel, 1990; Patterson & Strothamer-Loeber, 1984). In other words, if, through their efforts prior to adolescence, parents can launch their child in a prosocial trajectory, the child's association in adolescent peer groups should enhance the possibility that parents can help maintain that trajectory through their parenting efforts in adolescence.

The major message of our findings is that, beyond the simple assertion that parenting practices continue to have an impact on children during the teenage years, there is a more complex and perhaps more pessimistic reality that parental influence in adolescence is contingent on other social contexts in teenagers' lives. Participation in peer groups seems to magnify or minimize parental influences in ways that reinforce the normative standards of a particular peer group or of the adolescent peer culture as a whole. Examining family influences in this contextual perspective gives us a more sophisticated understanding of their contributions to young people's efforts to move confidently and competently through the adolescent stage of life.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The chapter is based on a paper presented at a conference entitled "Impact of Social Contexts on Adolescent Trajectories," held at the Pennsylvania State University in October 1992, and sponsored by the Program for Policy, Re

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