Without a doubt parents play an important role at every stage of their child/children’s development and this is true of the teenage years. Spring, Rosen & Matheson (2002) have observed that the transition to adolescence brings along with it tremendous challenges for both the parent and the adolescent (p. 411) and it is therefore essential that parents adopt strategies that would ensure that this period is not laced with the levels of stress and anxiety that is characteristic of families with maladjusted teenagers. It is evident therefore that proper parenting techniques are critical during the adolescent stage if parents are to ensure that their children develop into well-adjusted adolescents.
During the teenage years adolescents and parents are faced with a number of conflicting issues. The physical pubertal changes, peer pressure and the concerns of sex and sexuality are brought into focus at this stage. Spring, Rosen & Matheson (2002) also indicate that during this period there is a reshaping of “family expectations and interactions” and there is the demand for increasing autonomy from adolescents (p. 412). Additionally there are more modern areas of concern that are bothersome including the threat of HIV/AIDS, the influence of the mass media through music and entertainment and the capabilities of the Internet are challenging areas of concern for parents. At this stage there is the fear that these influences would supersede the influence of the parent and lead to severe negative results.
Parental style, according to research, is one of the most significant predictors of problems during the adolescent years. The nature of the family relationship and the facility with which the adolescent period is handled is said to be dependent on the technique and strategies that parents adopt in dealing with their adolescents (Jarvis, 2005). Jarvis (2005) indicates that the teenage years have less negative effects on families in which there is a close relationship between the parent and the teenager and where this relationship is non-conflictual (p. 210).
Jarvis (2005) has found that the most appropriate learning style to be adopted during the teenage years is an authoritative one. An authoritative parent is firm and consistent in laying down guidelines, procedures, limitations, responsibilities and consequences for their children. These parents are also supportive and permit their children ‘psychological autonomy’, according to Jarvis (2005) which allows adolescents some amount of freedom in decision-making and developing their own opinion and beliefs. Adolescents with parents who are supportive have been shown to have higher self-esteem and therefore avoid certain risky behaviors (Parker & Benson, 2004, p. 519). On the other hand parents who are too firm and authoritarian are usually shown to impact negative on their adolescents and this strictness usually has a poor effect on adolescent academic performance.
Other styles of parenting have been shown to be of negative effect on adolescent adjustment. Parker and Benson (2004) argue that a lack of parental support may lead to behavioral problems in adolescents including substance abuse (p. 519). These authors suggest that the parental closeness that was present before the teenage years, though much narrower, needs to still be present or adolescents will face problems of adjustment (p. 520).
Jarvis (2005) adds that parents who attempt to exert psychological control over their adolescents are rarely effective. This type of control generally reveals itself in ‘coerciveness, passive-aggression and intrusiveness’ (p. 211). This level of parental control eventually leads to further adjustment problems such as anxiety and depression which are detriment at this stage.
It is therefore evident that parents need to carefully examine how they relate to their teenagers during these crucial developmental years. Proper authoritative techniques should be employed in dealing with adolescents to ensure that the potential negative influences that adolescents are faced with are avoided.
Jarvis, C. (2005). Parenting problems: research and clinical perspectives on parenting adolescents. Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 31(2), 209 – 220.
Parker, J. S. & Benson, M. J. (2004, Fall). Parent-adolescent relations and adolescent functioning: Self-esteem, substance abuse, and delinquency. Adolescence, 39(155), 519-530.
Smetana, J., Crean, H. F. & Campione-Barr, N. (2005, Summer). Adolescents’ and parents’ changing conceptions of parental authority. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 108, 31- 46.
Spring, B., Rosen, K. H., & Matheson, J. L. (2002, Dec). how parents experience a transition to adolescence: A qualitative study. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 11(4), 411–425.