Academic journal article The International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy

Understanding Parental Monitoring through Analysis of Monitoring Episodes in Context

Academic journal article The International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy

Understanding Parental Monitoring through Analysis of Monitoring Episodes in Context

Article excerpt


A model of monitoring interactions was proposed that is based on behavioural principles and places episodic parent-adolescent interactions at the centre of analysis for monitoring. The processmonitoring model contends that monitoring is an interactive process between parents and their adolescents, nested within a social setting. In the model it is proposed that monitoring occurs in discrete episodes that change over the course of adolescent development. To explain monitoring interactions it is essential to expand research to include a functional assessment of monitoring exchanges between parents and adolescents and to also measure the quality of parent-adolescent relationships, consider adolescent age and development, parental characteristics, and the context of the family.

Keywords: parental monitoring, adolescent problem behaviour, parent-adolescent relationships


Parental monitoring is a hypothetical psychological construct that has been used to explain a composite of parenting practice variables including awareness, communication, concern, supervision, and tracking of adolescent behavior. Poor monitoring is consistently associated with antisocial behavior in both cross-sectional and longitudinal studies (Patrick, Snyder, Schrepferman, & Snyder, 2005; Patterson, Capaldi, & Bank, 1991; Patterson, Reid, & Dishion, 1992; Patterson & Stouthamer-Loeber, 1984; Patterson & Yoerger, 1997). Problem behavior has strong associations with deviant peers, and there is a flow on effect of further reducing monitoring (Ary, Duncan, Duncan, & Hops, 1999; Dishion, Patterson, Stoolmiller, & Skinner, 1991; Smetana & Daddis, 2002). Poor monitoring is also consistently associated with alcohol use, tobacco and substance use, higher sexual risk taking, poorer contraceptive use, lowered safe sex practices, and unwanted sex (Barnes & Farrell, 1992; Barnes, Reifman, Farrell, & Dintcheff, 2000; DiClemente et al., 2001; Li, Feigelman, & Stanton, 2000; Luster & Small, 1997; Metzler, Noell, Biglan, Ary, & Smolkowski, 1994; Reifman, Barnes, Dintcheff, Farrell, & Uhteg, 1998; Thomas, Reifman, Barnes, & Farrell, 2000). Poorly monitored adolescents are also more likely to report depressive symptoms, lowered self-esteem, and poor academic achievement (Crouter, MacDermid, McHale, & Perry-Jenkins, 1990; Gil-Rivas, Greenberger, Chen, & Lopez-Lena, 2003; Hartos & Power, 2000b). Despite the many studies that have shown poor monitoring is associated with problem behaviors in adolescents there are very few clinical studies reporting on interventions to improve monitoring. Of note is the work of Dishion and colleagues (2003) who recently demonstrated that it is possible to change parental monitoring and reduce problem behavior. More of this type of experimental intervention research is needed.

Patterson and colleagues (Patterson & Bank, 1987; Patterson et al., 1992; Patterson & StouthamerLoeber, 1984) developed the parental monitoring construct in their seminal work with the Oregon Youth Study. Presently there are two prominent monitoring definitions in the research. The original definition of monitoring is stated as: parental awareness of the child's activities, and communication to the child that the parent is concerned about, and aware of, the child's activities (Dishion & McMahon, 1998). The important aspect of this definition is that monitoring is a broad term that covers both structuring of the adolescents' environment, and tracking their activities.

The alternative definition comes from research by Kerr and Stattin (Kerr & Stattin, 2000; Kerr, Stattin, & Trost, 1999; Stattin & Kerr, 2000) and purports that monitoring is defined by parental knowledge of adolescent activity and that knowledge depends on adolescents' willingness to disclose. This knowledge definition is narrower and focuses on parental knowledge of adolescent behavior during freetime. …

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