Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Sources of Parent-Adolescent Conflict: Content and Form of Parenting

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Sources of Parent-Adolescent Conflict: Content and Form of Parenting

Article excerpt

Early adolescence has been described as a significant developmental transition that requires parents and adolescents to renegotiate their relationship in order to accommodate changes that involve adolescents' physical maturation as well as competencies in the cognitive, social, and emotional areas (Baumrind, 1991a, 1991b, 1991c; Collins, Gleason, & Sesma, 1997; Smetana, 2005). Developmental researchers agree that the renegotiation of the parent-adolescent relationship requires parents to reassess and alter their existing parenting practices. At least three potential ways have been suggested for parents to accommodate adolescent developmental progress. One way is for parents to allow adolescents greater participation and involvement in family decision making (Lamborn, Dornbusch, & Steinberg, 1996). A second way is for parents to increase their use of reason and explanation in justifying their directives and requests, so as to accommodate adolescents' increased cognitive ability to reason abstractly or in more complex ways (Baumrind, 2005). A third way is for parents to relinquish control and grant autonomy in the personal domain so as to enable adolescents to form an area of action that is outside of parental jurisdiction (Smetana, 2002). There also seems to be consensus in adolescence literature that the renegotiation of the parent-adolescent relationships leads to increased conflict in early adolescence relative to late childhood and that this represents the perturbation of the transitional years (Allison & Schultz, 2004; Laursen, Coy, & Collins, 1998).

In the present study parent-adolescent conflicts are examined to establish whether or not they can be attributed to the extent to which parents involve the adolescent in family decision making or the construction of rules, employ reason and explanation in an effort to accommodate the adolescent's increased capacity for abstract cognition, and grant autonomy or allow the adolescent jurisdiction over the personal domain. The first two strategies involve an alteration of the form of parenting or the ways parents assert their authority (parenting practices), and the third involves an alteration of the content or the types of issues (domains of moral, conventional, prudential, and personal) that parents regulate. The distinction between content and form is important because Smetana (2005), in explaining the source of parent-adolescent conflict as an aspect of social domain theory, emphasizes the content of parenting as involving the domains or the types of issues parents regulate without enough attention to the form of parenting which involves variations in parenting practices or the ways parents regulate. Likewise, Darling and Steinberg (1993) explained how parenting styles address the form of parenting without specific attention to the content of parenting. The aim in the present study was to examine the contribution of both the content and form of parenting in the context of parent-adolescent conflict.

FAMILY DECISION MAKING/RULE CONSTRUCTION AND ADOLESCENT INPUT

The ways parents initially construct the rules and expectations that affect adolescents' activities and define the limits of adolescents' autonomy may be one potential source of parent-adolescent conflict. Researchers who have examined the participatory role that adolescents play in family decision making have found that joint or bilateral decision making, where adolescents participate in the process of decision making, compared to unilateral parental decision making or to unilateral adolescent decision making, is associated with positive developmental outcomes of academic competence, psychosocial development, self-esteem, intrinsic motivation, and less delinquency, deviance, and susceptibility to negative peer pressure (e.g., Brown, Mounts, Lamborn, & Steinberg, 1993; Fuligni & Eccles, 1993; Lamborn et al., 1996). Grolnick, Weiss, McKenzie, and Wrightman (1996) also found that family decision making is one significant dimension of autonomy support (encouraging autonomy) during adolescence when adolescents are granted a more active role in the family and making this change is positively related to self-regulation and school performance and negatively related to behavioral problems (Grolnick & Ryan, 1989). …

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