Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

The Effect of Parental Supportive Behaviors on Life Satisfaction of Adolescent Offspring

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

The Effect of Parental Supportive Behaviors on Life Satisfaction of Adolescent Offspring

Article excerpt

Interest in studying parent-child relationships has a long history that is reflected in a large and rich literature. In recent years, measures of parenting style have improved (Barber, Olsen, & Shagle, 1994; Hollier, 1989; Young, 1993), and, because of the increased availability of national data sets, it has been possible to utilize larger, more representative samples of children and their families.

In contrast, few studies have addressed life satisfaction in childhood and adolescence. Those few studies that have explored correlates and predictor of life satisfaction in young people consistently report the importance of the parent-child relationship as the strongest predictor of life satisfaction in adolescent offspring (e.g., Armsden & Greenberg, 1987; Huebner, 1991; Leung & Leung, 1992; Man, 1991).

The purpose of e present study is to examine the relationship between specific parental supportive behaviors and children's perceptions of well-being. This study also examines the differential effects of mothers' and fathers' supportive behaviors as predictors of life satisfaction in sons and daughters.


Because of the perceived importance of the parent-child relationship, considerable research has examined the influence of parenting behaviors on child outcomes. Comprehensive reviews of parenting research (most recently those of Peterson & Rollins, 1987, and Demo, 1992) have consistently shown two important dimensions of parenting style: support and control. The support dimension typically consists of the positive affective characteristics of the parent-child relationship.

Parent Support

Rollins and Thomas (1979) defined parental support as "behavior manifest by a parent toward a child that makes the child feel comfortable in the presence of the parent and confirms in the child's mind that he is basically accepted and approved as a person by the parent" (p, 320). The support construct typically consists of variables such as acceptance, open communication, expressive and instrumental affection, nurturance, rapport, responsiveness, and companionship (Barber & Thomas, 1986; Rhoner, 1986). Rollins and Thomas (1979) viewed support as a continuous, quantitative, unidimensional variable. More recently, however, other researchers (Barber & Thomas, 1986; Felson & Zielinski, 1989; Rhoner, 1986) described parental support as multifaceted in nature. Recent research also indicates that parental support is an important antecedent in the development of positive attitudes of children towards themselves and their life circumstances (Barber et al. 1994; Barber Thomas, 1986; Felson & Zielinski, 1989).

Life Satisfaction

Life satisfaction is generally described as a feeling of well-being with one's self and life circumstances. Life satisfaction measures are currently being evaluated as correlates, as predictors, and as the outcome of interest in studies focusing on children and adolescents (Hollinger & Fleming, 1988; Huebner, 1991; Leung & Leung, 1992; Man, 1991).

Ryff (1989), noting a lack of theoretical grounding in research focusing on psychological well-being, tied theory-guided concepts of well-being to the empirical literature. She found other measures of psychological well-being (e.g., self-esteem, morale, and affect) to be positively related to life satisfaction measures, indicating clear linkages between those theoretical constructs and the empirical findings. Ryff concluded that prior studies tended to emphasize short-term well-being (e.g., happiness), as opposed to more enduring characteristics (e.g., life satisfaction) of psychological well-being. Others have also noted correlations between specific measures of subjective well-being--such as expressiveness and a sense of confidence (Hollinger Fleming, 1988), self-concept (Leung & Leung, 1992), and self-esteem, internal locus of control, and extroversion (Heubner, 1991)--and life satisfaction measures. …

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