Academic journal article Merrill-Palmer Quarterly

The Role of Parents in Young Adolescents' Competence with Peers: An Observational Study of Advice Giving and Intrusiveness

Academic journal article Merrill-Palmer Quarterly

The Role of Parents in Young Adolescents' Competence with Peers: An Observational Study of Advice Giving and Intrusiveness

Article excerpt

Young adolescents who encounter difficulties with peers can consult with their parents to help solve these problems. In this context, this study examines the contribution of adolescents' disclosure, parental advice giving, and parental intrusiveness into adolescents' social and behavioral adjustment. Young adolescents (N = 93; 49% girls; mean age = 12.9) and their parents took part in a problem-solving task in which adolescent disclosure, parental advice giving, and intrusiveness where observed. Several indicators of social and behavioral adjustment were measured concurrently and 1 year later by using adolescents' self-reports and teacher ratings. Results indicated that adolescent disclosure and advice giving were associated with adjustment, whereas intrusiveness was concurrently and longitudinally associated with maladjustment.

The structure and importance of peer relationships change during early adolescence (Brown & Larson, 2009). Compared to children, young adolescents have a wider friendship network (Claes & Poirier, 1994), spend more time with their peers (Larson & Richards, 1991), seek out peers for intimacy, support, and advice (Buhrmester, 1996), and are more influenced by their peers (Berndt, 1979; Steinberg & Monahan, 2007). As a result, difficulties with peers, such as conflict, rejection, or victimization, have a potentially stronger emotional impact during early adolescence as compared to other developmental periods (Bukowski, Brendgen, & Vitaro, 2007). When problems with peers inevitably occur, parents have an opportunity to teach their children how to resolve these problems and conflicts in socially acceptable ways. The extent to which children seek their parents' help to resolve problems and conflicts with peers may affect characteristics of children's peer network (e.g., number of friends they have and level of peer conflict) and their overall social adjustment (e.g., aggressive behavior, social competence, and prosocial behavior).

The present investigation considered the extent to which qualitative features of parents' assistance to their children during times of peer conflict influenced both characteristics of their children's peer network, as well as their children's overall adjustment, over a 1-year period during early adolescence. Parents who give their children advice on how to handle a conflict or a problem with their peers respect and support their young adolescent's need for autonomy. Such parents allow their young adolescent the flexibility to follow their advice or not. In contrast, when parents are overly intrusive and controlling in providing assistance to their children, adolescents' autonomy is restricted and undermined. Intrusive parents also provide poor models of conflict resolution. Considered was the extent to which parents' use of advice giving and intrusive-controlling assistance affects their young adolescents' friendship network size, frequency of peer conflict, aggression, social competence, and prosocial behaviors. In the following sections, the theoretical expectation is discussed as to why parental advice giving and intrusive managerial styles would affect characteristics of their children's peer relationships. Next, associations between parenting styles and children's behavioral adjustment are described. We conclude with a summary of the specific hypotheses evaluated.

Parental Management of Young Adolescent Peer Relationships

Early adolescence represents an important developmental transition in the manner in which parents provide assistance with peer relationships. Increases in autonomy that begin during early adolescence mean that parents become increasingly reliant on the young adolescent as a source of information about social relationships. According to Kerr and Stattin (2000), adolescents regulate the level of parental awareness and knowledge of their peer relationships. That is, adolescents' willingness to disclose events occurring with peers has been found to be a primary source of parental knowledge of peer conflict and relations (e. …

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