Parenting practices are highly scrutinized during infancy and childhood – a child’s formative years are considered the most influential in their development and understanding of the world. Yet a new study from Penn State is showing that the quality of parenting during adolescence is instrumental in the relationship between parent and child later in life. The study looked at various parental aspects, including involvement, warmth, and discipline toward their teens as a predictor of how close the parent and child will be when the child is a young adult.
Researchers worked with over 1,600 participants from Pennsylvania and Iowa for the study. Participants were surveyed between 6th and 12th grade (roughly ages 11-18), and then again when they were 22. Understandably, parenting styles and practices changed a lot when the child became an adolescent. More specifically, many parents were less available to and warm toward their children during this time. The one thing that did increase, was discipline.
Being more involved with children can be challenging for parents, as involvement is not defined by one set of standards, and it is expected that participation would decline when children become more independent.
Nevertheless, the study showed that those who received more warmth from their parents when they were teens felt closer to their parents in their 20s. Because of this, researchers remind parents not to overlook simple, caring gestures and affirmations, such as hugs and verbal acknowledgments of love.
The study found that consistent discipline also lays the foundation for the future, mainly using and maintaining that discipline from 6th grade through high school. With the consistency of discipline during younger years, parents reported that later on, they had less conflict with their children.
“When appropriate, it’s helpful to include adolescents in decision-making about family rules, such as discussions to decide on a reasonable curfew. When parents can include their teens in these decisions, they are more likely to go along with what is decided.” – Greg Fosco, professor of human development and family studies and associate director of the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center at Penn State.