Teens whose parents exerted more psychological control over them when they were 13 had more problems establishing friendships and romantic relationships that balanced closeness and independence, both in adolescence and into early adulthood.
The researchers looked at whether parents' greater use of psychological control in early adolescence can hinder teens' development of autonomy in relationships with peers. Parents' psychological control involved such tactics as using guilt, withdrawing love, fostering anxiety, or other psychologically manipulative tactics aimed at controlling youths' motivations and behaviors.
Barbara A. Oudekerk, a statistician with the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, who led the study, said that these tactics might pressure teens to make decisions in line with their parents' needs and motivations rather than their own and without opportunities to practice self-directed, independent decision making, teens might give in to their friends' and partners' decisions.
The researchers found that parents' use of psychological control at age 13 placed teens at risk for having problems establishing autonomy and closeness in relationships with friends and romantic partners that persisted eight years later, into early adulthood.
The scientists added that parents often fear the harmful consequences of peer pressure in adolescence and the study suggests that parents can promote or undermine teens' ability to assert their own views and needs to close friends and romantic partners. In addition, teens who learn-or fail to learn-how to express independence and closeness with friends and partners during adolescence carry these skills forward into adult relationships.
The study was published in the journal Child Development.