Associations between Adolescent-Mother and Adolescent-Best Friend Interactions

By Black, Katherine A. | Adolescence, Summer 2002 | Go to article overview

Associations between Adolescent-Mother and Adolescent-Best Friend Interactions


Black, Katherine A., Adolescence


Numerous studies have documented associations between the quality of children's relationships with their parents and their peer interaclions. For example, children and adolescents who were securely attached to their parents were more socially competent, had more reciprocal friendships, were more well-liked by their peers, and had more positive interactions with their peers than those who were insecurely attached to their parents (e.g., Allen, Moore, Kuperminc, & Bell, 1998; Beisky & Youngblade, 1992; K. Black & McCartney, 1997; Cassidy, Kirsh, Scolton, & Parke, 1996; Cohn, 1990; Elicker, Englund, & Sroufe, 1992; Fagot & Kavanagh, 1990; Kerns & Barth, 1995; Kobak & Sceery, 1988; Shulman, Elicker, & Sroufe, 1994; Turner, 1991). In addition, dyads of two secure children or adolescents were more responsive, had more positive interactions, and were happier than dyads where one or both members were insecure (K. Black & McCartney, 1997; Kerns, 1994b; Kerns, Kiepac, & Cole, 1996; Park & Waters, 1989; Troy & Sroufe, 1 987).

Although these studies are informative in that they have confirmed that good parenting (as evidenced by secure attachment) is associated with positive peer relations, they do not measure the mechanism by which this association occurs. In other words, what do children "take with them" from the family context to the peer context? Attachment theorists would argue that children's internal working models explain the linkages between family and peer relations. Internal working models contain information about how children expect their parents to behave toward them and about how acceptable or unacceptable children think they are to their parents (Bowlby, 1988). If parents are available and responsive, children internalize models of their parents as trustworthy and of themselves as worthy. On the other hand, if parents are rejecting or neglectful, children internalize models of their parents as untrustworthy and of themselves as unworthy. Eventually internal working models are generalized and contain expectations ab out how much other social partners can be trusted as well as how available and responsive they are likely to be (Kerns, 1994a). As such, associations between parent-child and child-peer relationships occur because children develop expectations of others' behavior based upon their early experiences with parents.

Another possibility for what children take with them from the family context to the peer context is relational skills. Good parenting is associated with positive peer relations because good parents teach their children appropriate social skills. For example, parents may coach their children on how to interact with peers (e.g., "Say you're sorry when you hurt someone") (Cooper & Ayers-Lopez, 1985; Lollis, Ross, & Tate, 1992). Parents may also inform their children about relational skills indirectly through their use of particular parenting styles (Bandura, 1986, 1989; Kerns, 1994a; Parke, MacDonald, Beitel, & Bhavnagri, 1988; Russell, Petit, & Mize, 1998). Through interactions with parents, children may learn about and practice some of the skills (e.g., negotiating, turn-taking, and reciprocity) that they will use in subsequent relationships with peers. While these skills are conducive to positive outcomes with peers, some parenting styles may encourage behaviors that lead to more negative outcomes. In either case, it is reasonable to expect associations between children's interactions with their parents and their interactions with peers.

Previous research concerning parallels between parent-child and child-peer interactions has essentially been conducted in two ways. First, several studies have found that parents' behavior toward their children is similar to children's behavior toward their peers. With regard to general communication styles, B. Black and Logan (1995) found that parents of preschool children who were less popular with their peers were more likely than parents of popular children to ignore their children's requests, to fail to acknowledge their children's utterances, and to speak over their children. …

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