Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Characteristics of Mother-Child Interactions Related to Adolescents' Positive Values and Behaviors

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Characteristics of Mother-Child Interactions Related to Adolescents' Positive Values and Behaviors

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to examine a theoretical model that considered accurate perception and acceptance of maternal values in relation to adolescents' positive values and behaviors. One hundred fifty-one mother-adolescent dyads completed measures targeting adolescent and maternal perceptions of prosocial values and adolescent behaviors (M age of adolescent = 16.34 years). Path analysis using structure equation modeling revealed that accurate perception and acceptance of maternal values were positively related, both additively and multiplicatively, to personal values. Accurate perception and acceptance were negatively related to adolescents' antisocial behaviors, and personal values were positively related to adolescents' prosocial behaviors. The current study provides insight into how maternal discipline might influence adolescent behaviors indirectly through mother-adolescent interactions.

Key Words: parenting, positive values, prosocial behaviors, values internalization.

How children formulate their own system of moral values, or standards of right and wrong, has long been a topic of interest among researchers, policymakers, and parents. Adolescence is a time of biological, cognitive, and social change that makes mis age especially important for studying values formation. Because adolescence is a time of independence and identity development, children are more vulnerable during adolescence to values messages than at any previous time in childhood (Steinberg & Silk, 2002; Steinberg & Silverberg, 1986). Not only is adolescence an important time for values development, but mere is also a change in behaviors during this time. Although research often focuses on antisocial behaviors such as drug use (Zapert, Snow & Tebes, 2002) and delinquency (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1999), adolescence is also a time during which prosocial behaviors increase (Eisenberg & Morris, 2004). Thus, adolescence is an important developmental age in which to examine the formation of positive values, as well as positive and negative behaviors.

During adolescence, children begin to spend more time with socialization agents outside the home, such as peers and media, which may provide values that conflict with family values and may encourage experimentation. Nevertheless, parents continue to be fundamental during adolescence (Steinberg & Silk, 2002), and parent-adolescent interactions are especially important to consider when examining adolescents' values and behaviors. Although a substantial body of research examines the influence of parental discipline on internalization of values and on adolescent behaviors (for reviews, see Eisenberg & Fabes, 1998; Grusec & Goodnow, 1994), little research examines other aspects of parent-adolescent interactions that may influence the effectiveness of disciplinary actions for promoting positive values and behaviors. The purpose of me current study was to examine the role of adolescents' accurate perception and acceptance of maternal values in influencing positive values formation and prosocial and antisocial behaviors.

Importance of the Parent-Adolescent Relationship

Although socialization influences on adolescents' values are multifaceted, parents are often targeted as the most important source of values information for their children. In general, research has relied heavily on examining parenting styles and practices, which have been found to be most effective in promoting positive values and behaviors when they allow the adolescent to attend to the semantic content of the message and give the adolescent a feeling of autonomy and choice (see Eisenberg & Fabes, 1998). A great deal of research has supported the importance of loving but firm enforcement of rules on children's and adolescents' social, cognitive, and moral development and the problems with power assertive, rejecting, or neglectful parenting styles (Dekovic & Janssens, 1992; Krevans & Gibbs, 1996; Steinberg, Lamborn, Darling, Mounts & Dornbusch, 1994). …

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