Assignment: Psychology Article Review

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Assignment: Psychology Article Review

Assignment: Psychology Article Review

Developmental Changes in Parent–Child Communication Throughout Adolescence

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Loes Keijsers Utrecht University

François Poulin Université du Québec à Montréal

This study examined how parent–child communication regarding adolescent unsupervised activities develops over the course of adolescence. We used questionnaire data from 390 adolescents (58% girls; 90% European Canadian) who were followed from age 12 to 19. Latent growth curve modeling revealed curvilinear developmental changes that differed for boys and girls. From age 14 to 19 (but not from age 12 to 14) a linear decrease in parental control was found for both genders. For girls, parent–child communication decreased in early adolescence, as indicated by decreasing parental solicitation, decreas- ing adolescent disclosure, and increasing secrecy. Girls’ communication with parents intensified in middle adolescence, as indicated by increasing parental solicitation, increasing adolescent disclosure, and decreasing adolescent secrecy. For boys, disclosure declined in early adolescence, but secrecy and solicitation were stable throughout adolescence. Parental knowledge decreased from age 12 to 19 for both genders but was temporarily stable for middle adolescent girls. The meaning of these developmental changes, their timing, and gender differences are discussed.

Keywords: parent–child communication, parental monitoring, adolescent disclosure, adolescent secrecy, development

It is an important developmental task for adolescents to become autonomous and to individuate from parents (Blos, 1967). The autonomy relatedness perspective (Cooper, Grote- vant, & Condon, 1983) states that healthy autonomy develop- ment can only be achieved by realigning the existing parent– child relationship while ultimately staying connected to parents (see also Ryan & Lynch, 1989). Parents and children can disengage from communication as a strategic tool to renegotiate and realign their relationship toward a structure that is less authoritarian and more egalitarian. At the same time, commu- nication is an important means of attaining and strengthening connectedness and intimacy between parents and their children (Finkenauer, Engels, & Meeus, 2002; Kerr, Stattin, & Trost, 1999). Throughout the realignment of parent– child relation- ships in adolescence, parents and children are therefore contin-


uously required to find a way of communicating with one another that facilitates and acknowledges adolescent needs for autonomy and independence while enhancing connectedness and relatedness. This study aims at understanding how parents and chil- dren communicate with each other during the realignment of their relationship from early to late adolescence.

Operationalization of Parent–Child Communication

As teenagers enter high school, an increasing number of hours per day are spent engaging in activities that go unsupervised by parents (Larson, Richards, Moneta, Holmbeck, & Duckett, 1996), and of which parents are not necessarily automatically aware of. This is especially so as most adolescents do not voluntarily share all of this information with parents (Stattin & Kerr, 2000). Parents are therefore required to communicate with their adolescent chil- dren in order to remain informed and to try to evoke disclosures. For instance, parents may ask children for information (i.e., pa- rental solicitation) or impose rules and restrictions on the amount of freedom children have to partake in activities without informing their parents (i.e., parental control; Stattin & Kerr, 2000). In this study, in order to assess different aspects of parent–child commu- nication about adolescent leisure time activities, we measured whether adolescents voluntarily share information or keep it secret, whether parents undertake active monitoring behaviors, such as soliciting and controlling access to information, and the degree to which parents know about their adolescent children’s leisure time activities.

This article was published Online First March 11, 2013. Loes Keijsers, Research Centre for Adolescent Development, Faculty of

Social Sciences, Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands; François Poulin, Département de Psychologie, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada.

The study described in this article was supported by research grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and from the Fonds Québécois pour la Recherche sur la Société et la Culture.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Loes Keijsers, Research Centre for Adolescent Development, Faculty of Social Sciences, Utrecht University, P.O. Box 80.140, 3508 TC Utrecht, the Netherlands. E-mail: [email protected]

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