Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Parental Monitoring and Adolescents' Sense of Responsibility for Their Own Learning: An Examination of Sex Differences

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Parental Monitoring and Adolescents' Sense of Responsibility for Their Own Learning: An Examination of Sex Differences

Article excerpt

In this study, the Children's Hassles Scale, the Life Events Record, the Intellectual Achievement Responsibility Scale, and the Hare Self-Esteem Scale were used as measures to examine the monitoring processes of parents and their effects on the attitudes and experiences of sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade African American inner-city adolescents (N = 498). Parental influence was found to be significant in the career and goal aspirations of the adolescents, despite adolescents' reports of feeling "hassled" by parents. Parental monitoring activities, reported as "hassles" by youth, and the adolescents' self-efficacy were positive indicators of learning responsibility. The study also measured the differences in perceptions between the sexes for the adolescents studied.


Adolescents tend to be quite sensitive to the persuasiveness of peers and the general influence of popular culture (i.e., fashion, music). However, the impact of parents is not lost. Research has shown that during adolescence, the quality and even the affective nature of the relationship between parents and children may change, but the influence of parents remains (Gjerde, 1986; Hooper & Hooper, in press). Relationships may become strained as adolescents negotiate the challenge of relinquishing parental ties and childhood identifications while still maintaining the continuity of parental and familial alliances. Parent-child relationships themselves may become stressors that exacerbate the already challenging physical, social, emotional, and cognitive transitions of adolescence. Simmons, Burgeson, Carlton-Ford, and Blyth (1987) report that adolescents exhibit greater difficulties affecting their self-esteem, academic grade point average, and participation in extracurricular activities when several stressors exist during a transitional period (i.e., puberty) or accompany a particular experience (ire., divorce) in a critical area of their life. Such stressors include changing schools, physical maturation, residential moves, and changes in family and interpersonal relations. Adolescence may be further complicated for urban African American youths because many of these young people struggle not only with the normative developmental tasks of adolescence but also with the stresses associated with chronic and unaddressed poverty and its correlates.

The very process of negotiating independence from parents is a critical psychosocial task adolescents must achieve in order to become autonomous, self-sufficient, productive, and competent adults (Steinberg, 1987, 1988). The ethnographic work of Jarrett (1995) suggests that for many African American children, social mobility is promoted by a number of factors including the presence of a supportive adult network, restricted family-community interactions, and stringent parental monitoring. The latter of these is the focus of the present study.

Stringent parental monitoring strategies include parents' efforts to closely observe, supervise, and regulate how and where their adolescents spend their time, who their friends are, and other aspects of these young people's lives. They represent an attempt on the part of parents to minimize the risks their teenagers might face in neighborhood, school, and other settings, and to maximize their exposure to local and extralocal opportunities. Interestingly, adolescents can exhibit differential responses to such monitoring. It may be viewed and experienced as a protective measure by some adolescents and as a "hassle" or a stressor by others. Moreover, because specific sex-role expectations for instrumentality and independence remain traditional American values, parental monitoring may be perceived differently by gender. It may also follow different predictive pathways for academic achievement and orientation to school and learning.

Irrespective of gender, adolescents develop adaptive coping strategies that are based upon their perceived experiences of stress. …

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