Teenage problems linked to parents
By Carolyn Milburn

Originally posted May 19 2001.

Antisocial teenagers tend to have parents who are harsh, inconsistent disciplinarians, according to a study examining links between parenting styles and teen problems.

Teens who stole, got into fights, drove cars without permission and committed other rebellious acts had parents who used similar, but ineffective parenting style.

Compared with problem-free teens, antisocial adolescents were more likely to have parents who shouted at them and lost their temper when the teenager was rude.

The parents' disciplinary methods depended on the mood they were in. And they did not monitor their children's activities as closely as parents whose children did not have behavior disorders.

The survey, by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, also examined depression among teens and possible links to parenting styles.

It found relationships between depressed teens and their parents were less warm and of poorer quality than the relationships between problem-free teens and their parents.

Depressed adolescents felt more alienated from their parents and communication between parent and child was not as open.

The study involved a survey of 73 anti-social teens, 74 depressed adolescents, 64 problem-free teens and their parents.

As part of the survey parents were asked to describe their parenting style. Each parent and child was also filmed discussing issues and solving problems.

One of the study's authors, Diana Smart, said that although parenting style contributed to a child's behavior, other influences such as peers, school, and the child's temperament also played a significant role.

"The study is not showing that parents are bad parents," Mrs Smart said. "It shows that some parents are less effective in their parenting style.

"It can be difficult being a parent of a teenager. It can be hard trying to be consistent, trying to maintain rules and standards when a teenager may be narky, trying to avoid extreme responses when you're being provoked," she said.

"But nevertheless, it's worth the effort because what parents do can facilitate good development in their children."

Adolescents without behavior problems had warm, close relationships with their parents. Their parents monitored their activities and knew what was going on in their children's lives.

Mrs Smart, a senior research officer at the institute, welcomed a recent Federal Government initiative, the Stronger Families and Communities Strategy, which is a series of nationwide programs to help parents improve their parenting skills.

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