Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Parents' Involvement in Adolescents' Peer Relationships: A Comparison of Mothers' and Fathers' Roles

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Parents' Involvement in Adolescents' Peer Relationships: A Comparison of Mothers' and Fathers' Roles

Article excerpt

The goals of this study were to compare mothers' and fathers' direct involvement in adolescent girls' versus boys' peer relationships and to examine the links between parents' involvement and the qualities of adolescents' friendship and peer experiences. Participants were mothers, fathers, and firstborn adolescents (mean age = 15 years) in 187 working- and middle-class families. Data were collected during home visits and a series of seven nightly telephone interviews. Parents' direct involvement was measured by parents' reports of their peer-oriented activities, parents' knowledge about adolescents' peer experiences, and parents' time spent with adolescents and their peers. Findings revealed that mothers were more knowledgeable about adolescents' peer relationships than were fathers, that mothers with daughters reported the most peer-oriented activities, and that both

mothers and fathers spent more time with samesex adolescents and their peers. Parents' direct involvement was differentially related to girls' versus boys' peer experiences. Discussion highlights the role of parents' and adolescents' gender in shaping this dimension of family life in adolescence.

Key Words: adolescence, family-peer linkages, parents' involvement.

One of the ways in which parents play a critical role in their sons' and daughters' social development is by encouraging their interactions with other youth; in this way parents provide opportunities for girls and boys to develop social cognitive and relationship formation skills (Ladd, Profilet, & Hart, 1992). According to the model of parenting processes proposed by Parke and colleagues, parental influences on girls' and boys' peer relationships operate through two pathways: indirect socialization and direct involvement (Parke & Buriel, 1998). Models of indirect socialization, such as attachment and social learning perspectives, suggest that parents influence their children's peer interactions indirectly, through the more general influence of parent-child relationship experiences on children's social development and peer competence (e.g., Elicker, Englund, & Sroufe, 1992; MacDonald & Parke, 1984). Parents who are characterized as warm and accepting parents, for example, tend to have children who are more socially competent with peers (MacDonald & Parke, 1984).

The focus of recent research, and of this investigation, is the second pathway, parents' direct efforts to guide their offspring's peer relationships, such as when they supervise peer interactions, engineer opportunities for their children to spend time with peers, and generally manage children's social lives (Ladd et al., 1992; Parke & Buriel, 1998). Studies of young children's peer relationships indicate that children benefit from more frequent and more positive interactions with peers and higher levels of social acceptance when parents are involved in those relationships (Bhavnagri & Parke, 1991; Ladd & Goiter, 1988; Lollis, Ross, & Tate, 1992). Considerably less is known about parents' direct involvement in adolescents' peer relationships.


The nature of parents' involvement in their children's social relationships may differ dramatically across developmental periods. For example, during early childhood parents directly intervene in and supervise children's peer interactions, whereas in middle childhood, parents may use a less intrusive approach such as encouraging friendships and monitoring social activities (Rubin & Sloman, 1984). With the exception of the literature on the connections between parental monitoring and deviant peer influences (e.g., Patterson, DeBaryshe, & Ramsey, 1989; Steinberg, 1986), we know little about parents' direct role in adolescents' friendship and peer relationships (for exceptions, see recent conference proceedings, McCoy, 1996; Mounts & McCoy, 1999). …

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