Academic journal article Family Relations

Family and Parenting Behaviors Predicting Middle School Adjustment: A Longitudinal Study

Academic journal article Family Relations

Family and Parenting Behaviors Predicting Middle School Adjustment: A Longitudinal Study

Article excerpt

Family reports and observations of parental behaviors were obtained during the fifth grade year, and adjustment measures were obtained in the fifth, sixth, and seventh grade. Supportive, aware parenting was associated with early adolescents' positive academic, social, and psychological adjustment in fifth grade and with further improvement in adjustment in seventh grade. Parental inattentiveness and harsh control were associated with poorer fifth grade outcomes and a decline in adjustment over time. Implications are discussed for practitioners, for working directly with parents of middle schoolers, and for developing prevention programs.

The transition into middle school or junior high school is a challenging time for children. They are likely to be experiencing the onset of puberty, with accompanying changes in self-concept (Eccles, Adler, & Meece, 1984; Simmons, Rosenberg, & Rosenberg, 1973; Wigfield, Eccles, MacIver, Reuman, & Midgley, 1991) and a heightened awareness of gender identity (Eccles, 1987; Hill & Lynch, 1983; Simmons & Blyth, 1987). Often, they are entering a new and larger school where, for the first time, they are accountable to a different teacher for each subject, with higher academic demands being made on them (Blyth, Simmons, & Bush, 1978; Schulenberg, Asp, & Petersen, 1984). In the social realm, they have moved from being the oldest children in their school to the youngest, in a setting with very different behavioral norms (Simmons & Blyth, 1987). In addition, they are encountering different mixes of children in their classes and may experience a reshuffling of previous friendship networks and social hierarchies (Berndt, 1987).

Although there is debate about the degree of psychic turmoil that early adolescents typically experience, this period is often stressful; research has documented for this age group a higher level of behavioral disturbances in the classroom, lower self-esteem (Simmons, Blyth, Van Cleave, & Bush, 1979; Wigfield & Eccles, 1994), lower academic motivation and achievement (Crockett, Petersen, Graber, Schulenberg, & Ebata, 1989; Eccles et al., 1983; Simmons & Blyth, 1987), distressed peer interaction (Coleman, 1961), and the beginning of risk-taking behaviors such as alcohol and drug use (Centers for Disease Control, 1989). However, whereas some early adolescents begin to manifest emotional, behavioral, or academic problems during the middle school years, others are able to continue on a positive course of academic achievement and psychological adjustment. The extensive research literature on childrearing practices in relation to developmental outcomes, across a wide age range of children and adolescents, suggests that parenting characteristics may play an important role in this adjustment.

In particular, numerous studies have found that supportive parenting fosters children's positive social and emotional adjustment. How supportive parenting has been defined and measured, however, has differed somewhat within the research literature. It has been variously labeled acceptance, love, warmth, and nurturance (Baldwin, Kalhorn, & Breese, 1945; Becker, Peterson, Luria, Shoemaker, & Hellmer, 1962; Maccoby, 1980; Martin, 1975; Rohner, 1986; Schaefer, 1959) and has consisted of different combinations of characteristics, such as approval, affection, attentiveness, responsiveness, involvement, reassurance, equalitarianism, and use of reasoning. Baumrind's 1967 study of preschoolers and their parents marked a turning point in the definition, in that her description of "Pattern I" parenting included not only the above characteristics, but also control-specifically, providing clear directives and consistency in enforcing them. Pattern I parenting became the basis for authoritative parenting in subsequent studies and reports (Baumrind, 1971, 1973) and has more recently been utilized by Baumrind and others in studies of parenting practices with older children and adolescents (Baumrind, 1991a, 1991b; Dornbusch, Ritter, Leiderman, Roberts, & Fraleigh, 1987; Hetherington & Clingempeel, 1992; Lamborn, Mounts, Steinberg, & Dornbusch, 1991; Miller, Cowan, Cowan, Hetherington, & Clingempeel, 1993; Steinberg, Elmen, & Mounts, 1989; Steinberg, Mounts, Lamborn, & Dornbusch, 1991). …

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