The Relationship between Positive Parental Involvement and Identity Achievement during Adolescence

Article excerpt

The present study explored the role of parental support and monitoring in the development of identity during adolescence. The hypotheses proposed were derived from a combination of literature on parenting, identity formation, and individuation in the family context. Barber's (1997) model of parenting provides a strong theoretical foundation for understanding the relationship between parenting and adolescent identity development. Barber has identified three dimensions of socialization that are necessary for healthy child development. The first is connectedness with significant others, also referred to as warmth. The consistent positive emotions that come from a sense of relatedness with significant others are associated with the development of social skills as well as a sense that the world is safe and predictable. Such a sense of security is crucial for exploration in identity formation.

According to Barber's model, parental regulation of behavior, also known as demandingness, is essential as well in order for children to learn self-regulation. Monitoring adolescents' behavior serves as an induction into the norms of society through teaching appropriate conformity. Because parents socialize their children through the establishment of rules and communication patterns in the family, the degree and quality of parental control and involvement have a major impact on adolescent development.

The third component of Barber's model is facilitation of psychological autonomy through responsiveness to adolescents' need to separate themselves from parents. In healthy parent-adolescent relationships, parents provide structure with enough flexibility that adolescents can securely engage in identity exploration, and adolescents reciprocate by establishing autonomy without sacrificing relatedness (Allen, Hauser, Bell, & O'Connor, 1994). The individuation process involves a shift in self-perception in which adolescents come to see themselves as distinct within the parent-child relational context (Sabatelli & Mazor, 1985). Parental encouragement and support are vital to this process, as adolescents are not leaving behind their parents as they develop their identities. Rather, a qualitative change that permits distancing occurs (Lavoie, 1994). The individuation process is a cooperative endeavor between parent and child that involves the child asserting and parents granting independence while both maintain their connection. Attachment to parents continues through late adolescence (O'Koon, 1997), as adolescents redefine themselves within the family context. The relationship between parents and children is renegotiated from one of asymmetrical authority to a relationship characterized by more reciprocity with elements of both individuation and connectedness (Grotevant & Cooper, 1985). Ideally, parents remain involved without being imposing, thus providing support and sufficient leeway for adolescents to choose and commit to ideological beliefs and personal goals.

The purpose of this study was threefold. First, it was designed to examine three components of parenting as they relate to adolescent identity development. The interrelationships between these components as well as their individual and combined influence on identity development were examined. In this manner, the underlying mechanisms that influence identity formation could be explicated. Specifically, emotional support from parents and parental knowledge of social and school-related activities were measured and used as predictors of adolescent identity achievement. It was hypothesized that high parental awareness of adolescent behavior and parental support would be positively associated with identity achievement.

The second purpose of this study was to examine gender differences in identity achievement. Findings regarding gender differences in adolescent identity achievement have been inconsistent, with differences frequently being absent (Allen et al. …


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