Academic journal article Journal of Family Studies

Mother Knows Best: Psychological Control, Child Disclosure, and Maternal Knowledge in Emerging Adulthood

Academic journal article Journal of Family Studies

Mother Knows Best: Psychological Control, Child Disclosure, and Maternal Knowledge in Emerging Adulthood

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Although perceived parental knowledge of children's behaviors, whereabouts, and companions in emerging adulthood has been linked with less engagement in risk behaviors [Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 37 (2008) 847-859], much remains unknown about how parents gain this knowledge during this time period. Because parents tend to have less direct control over their children's comings and goings in emerging adulthood, child disclosure may play a particularly important role in the knowledge parents have of their children's lives. The purpose of this study was to examine: (1) whether aspects of the mother-child relationship were related to child disclosure, (2) whether child disclosure was related to maternal knowledge, and (3) whether child disclosure and maternal knowledge were related to a child's involvement in risk behaviors during emerging adulthood. Data collected from 252 emerging adults attending college in the United States (77 males, 175 females), and their mothers, were analyzed using structural equation modeling. Results suggested that: (a) satisfaction with the current relationship between emerging adults and their mothers was positively related to child disclosure, (b) maternal psychological control was negatively related to child disclosure, (c) child disclosure was positively related to maternal knowledge, and (d) child disclosure was indirectly and maternal knowledge was directly related to lower levels of risk behaviors.

Key words: emerging adulthood; parental knowledge; child disclosure

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It is well established that, in adolescence, parental knowledge (i.e., knowledge of their child's activities, whereabouts, and companions; Crouter & Head, 2002) is associated with lower levels of externalizing behaviors such as deviance (Waizenhofer, Buchanan, & Jackson-Newsom, 2004), delinquency (Cernkovich & Giordano, 1987), substance use (Jacobson & Crockett, 2000; Pettit, Laird, Dodge, Bates, & Criss, 2001), and sexual activity (Longmore, Manning, & Giordano, 2001); and lower levels of internalizing behaviors, such as depressed mood and low self-esteem (Kerr & Stattin, 2000; Stattin & Kerr, 2000). Researchers have identified parental control, parental solicitation, and child disclosure as ways in which parents gain knowledge about their adolescents' behavior, and some studies suggest that child disclosure is the strongest source of parental knowledge in adolescence (Stattin & Kerr, 2000).

Parental knowledge (perceived or actual knowledge), however, has not been studied to the same extent in emerging adulthood after children have left the home, and it may be that pathways to parental knowledge are different than they were during adolescence. Although perceived parental knowledge in this developmental period has been linked with less engagement in risk behaviors such as drinking, drug use, and risky sexual behavior (Padilla-Walker, Nelson, Madsen, & Barry, 2008), much remains unknown about how parents gain this knowledge in emerging adulthood. Given the changing nature of the parent-child relationship in emerging adulthood (Aquilino, 2006), it would seem particularly important to examine the role that child disclosure plays as we attempt to better understand the role of parental knowledge in emerging adulthood. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine: (a) whether aspects of the mother-child relationship (i.e., the child's feelings regarding upbringing, satisfaction with the current relationship, and psychological control) were related to child disclosure, (b) whether child disclosure was related to maternal knowledge, and (c) whether child disclosure and maternal knowledge (as well as aspects of the mother-child relationship) were related to a child's involvement in risk behaviors during emerging adulthood.

PARENTING IN EMERGING ADULTHOOD

Aquilino (2006) points out that changing interests, abilities, transitions, and behaviors of emerging adults lead to a 'shake up' (p. …

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