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Evidence suggests that family environments constitute the basic ecology where children’s behavior is manifested, learned, encouraged, and suppressed . Parents’ roles in the family environment have primarily been to prepare children for adulthood through rules and discipline. During adolescence, however, the influence of peers also serves as an important socialization agent. Despite this new sphere of influence, research has clearly demonstrated that parenting accounts for more variance in externalizing behaviors in adolescence than any other one factor [2,3,4,5]. The period of adolescence can be difficult for both parents and offspring; therefore, understanding the importance of maintaining high quality parenting is particularly essential. The influence of parenting during adolescence continues to affect behaviors into adulthood; therefore, this paper will review research that focuses on the influence of parents on their adolescent offspring. Although the relationship between parent and offspring is characterized as bidirectional and interactional, this paper will focus on the impact of parenting on adolescent outcomes.
This review provides an overview of the literature on parenting and adolescent outcomes from the past decade and includes advancements and new directions in parenting research. Although most of the research included in the review is from the past decade, seminal research was included in the review to provide background information on current research studies on parenting and adolescent outcomes. Studies highlighted in the review serve as a thorough review of the literature; however, the articles reviewed in this paper are not exhaustive because the body of literature is massive and it is necessary to impose some limits on the scope of this review paper. Specifically, the review of the research literature in this paper regarding the associations between parenting factors and adolescent outcomes was limited to parental styles, parental behaviors, adolescent emotional and behavioral outcomes and covariates of and contextual effects on parenting. Specific attention was given to problem behaviors in adolescence, such as internalizing and externalizing behaviors because these are associated with long-term negative consequences across the life course. The use of the term problem behaviors refers to internalizing and externalizing behaviors to describe adolescent outcomes throughout the paper. Researchers most commonly define externalizing behaviors as aggression, deviant behavior, drug use, underage drinking, deviant peer affiliation, and opposition. Internalizing behaviors examined in past research include behaviors such as, depression, self-esteem, and fearfulness. Further, the review will also examine specific behaviors that are the components of parenting typologies. Additionally, research studies examining the mechanisms that shape parenting that then influence adolescent outcomes will also be considered. Specifically, several covariates of and contextual effects on parenting, such as racial and ethnic differences in discipline practices, family socioeconomic status, family structure, and neighborhood and community contexts will be discussed. The review concludes with a discussion of future directions for parenting research and implications.
2. Parenting Styles
In the literature, there appears to be solid evidence illustrating the influence parenting behaviors and parenting styles have on adolescent outcomes, however there are still gaps in the research. Over the past decade in the parenting literature, there has been a debate about whether researchers should use a typological approach or examine specific parenting behaviors. Parenting typologies, which capture variations in parental responsiveness and demandingness, closely reflect the interactional nature of parenting dynamics.
Originally, Baumrind’s work on parenting was based on the dimension of parental control to form three different parenting styles, which included authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive . Parental control is defined as “the claims parents make on children to become integrated into the family as a whole, by their maturity demands, supervision, and disciplinary efforts and willingness to confront the child who disobeys”  (p. 62). High levels of demandingness can be described as structure and control. Parenting behaviors included in this dimension include parental monitoring and parental discipline practices. Building upon Baumrind’s parental style framework, Maccoby and Martin  added parental responsiveness as another dimension of parenting. Parenting behaviors that measure parental responsiveness include parental warmth, parental support, and parental involvement . An expanded parenting typology was developed by Maccoby and Martin  categorizing parents as either high or low on each dimension, the new typology included the three styles previously identified by Baumrind  as well as an additional style: uninvolved parenting.
The two-dimensional view of parenting shown in Table 1, combines parenting behaviors (i.e., responsiveness and control) into parenting styles . This typology allows researchers to examine the impact of variations of responsiveness and control. While Baumrind originally applied her typology to young children, scores of studies have used parenting styles when examining the effect of parenting on adolescents and the findings suggest that the pattern of results is similar when the focus is on adolescents.
Table 1. Parenting Typologies.
|High Control||Low Control|
2.1. Authoritative Parenting Style
Authoritative parents are high in responsiveness and demandingness and exhibit more supportive than harsh behaviors. Authoritative parents encourage verbal give and take, convey the reasoning behind rules, and use reason, power, and shaping to reinforce objectives. This parenting style is most often associated with positive adolescent outcomes and has been found to be the most effective and beneficial style of parenting among most families. It is well established that authoritative parenting fosters adolescents’ positive well-being [9,10,11]. Adolescents with authoritative parents are less prone to externalizing behaviors, and specifically are less likely to engage in drug use than individuals with uninvolved parents [9,10,11]. Recent findings show that positive effects of authoritative parenting are amplified when both parents engage in an authoritative parenting style . Findings from this study suggest that the authoritative parenting style is associated with the lowest levels of depression and the highest levels of school commitment among adolescents . This study also indicated that having at least one authoritative parent fosters better outcomes than family parenting styles that do not include an authoritative parent. In another study, adolescents whose parents are both authoritative or whose mother alone is authoritative report higher well-being, such as higher self-esteem and life-satisfaction, than participants with no authoritative parent . Similarly, researchers controlled for several mother-related variables and found that having an authoritative father was associated with positive outcomes among adolescents . These research findings suggest that regardless of gender of the parent, the presence of even one authoritative parent is beneficial for adolescent outcomes .
Interestingly, researchers found that monitoring varies among parenting styles. Researchers found that authoritative parents exhibit higher levels of parental monitoring during their child’s childhood and slight decreases across adolescence . These findings suggest that authoritative parents somewhat relinquish their monitoring in response to adolescents’ increasing demands for independent decision-making.
2.2. Authoritarian Parenting Style
Authoritarian parents are low in responsiveness yet highly demanding. The authoritarian parenting style is associated with parents who emphasize obedience and conformity and expect that rules be obeyed without explanation in a less warm environment . Additionally, authoritarian parents exhibit low levels of trust and engagement toward their child, discourage open communication, and engage in strict control . More specifically, verbal hostility and psychological control were found to be the most detrimental of the authoritarian-distinctive, coercive power-assertive behaviors . Adolescents from most Caucasian authoritarian families have been found to exhibit poor social skills, low levels of self-esteem, and high levels of depression . However, the effects of this parenting style vary based on the communities in which the adolescent lives. These findings will be discussed in greater detail in the covariates of and contextual effects on parenting section.
2.3. Permissive Parenting Style
Permissive parenting is characterized by high levels of responsiveness and low levels of demandingness . Permissive parents behave in an affirmative manner toward the adolescent’s impulses, desires, and actions while consulting with the adolescent about family decisions . Further, permissive parents do not set rules, avoid engaging in behavioral control, and set few behavioral expectations for adolescents . Interestingly, permissive parents showed steep decreases in monitoring once their children reached adolescence and these children increased their levels of externalizing behavior . Adolescents from permissive families report a higher frequency of substance use, school misconduct, and are less engaged and less positively oriented to school compared to individuals from authoritative or authoritarian families . Permissive parenting is also associated with low self-esteem and extrinsic motivational orientation among adolescents .
2.4. Uninvolved Parenting Style
Finally, uninvolved parenting style has been found to have the most negative effect on adolescent outcomes when compared to the other three parenting styles. Uninvolved parents often fail to monitor or supervise their child’s behavior and do not support or encourage their child’s self-regulation . The uninvolved parenting style is described as low in responsiveness and low in demandingness. In general, these parents often show disengagement from the responsibilities of child rearing and are often seen as being uninvolved regarding the needs of their offspring . Uninvolved parents do not engage in structure or control with their adolescents and often there is a lack of closeness in the parent-child dyad; therefore, adolescents of uninvolved parents often engage in more externalizing behaviors . For example, researchers found an association between an uninvolved parenting style and delinquent acts ranging from vandalism and petty theft to assault and rape . Further, researchers found that by grade 12, adolescents with uninvolved parents drank alcohol almost twice as much and smoked twice as much as their peers that lived in authoritative households . In another study, adolescents who perceived their parents as uninvolved used more drugs compared to adolescents who perceived their parents as authoritative .
In addition to increased externalizing behaviors among adolescents who have uninvolved parents, findings show that participants with either an uninvolved parent or two uninvolved parents scored lower on self-esteem than participants without a uninvolved parent . Similarly, in another study, the effects of uninvolved parenting were associated with higher levels of child-reported depressive symptoms during adolescence . However, researchers found that having an uninvolved mother was associated with significantly worse outcomes than families with an uninvolved father . Findings from this study suggest that the gender of the parent may influence the effects of uninvolved parents on adolescent outcomes. In sum, research consistently indicates that individuals whose parents are uninvolved perform most poorly in all emotional and behavioral outcomes.
3. Parenting Behaviors
Much empirical research shows that certain parenting behaviors are associated with specific adolescent internalizing and externalizing outcomes. Research indicating that parenting behaviors influence the development and maintenance of problem behaviors among adolescents will be discussed in this section. The following sections examine aspects of behavioral control, such as parental monitoring and disciplinary practices, as well as, nurturing parental behaviors such as parental warmth and parental support, inductive reasoning, and parent-child communication.
3.1. Behavioral Control
Parental behavioral control involves managing adolescent behavior and activities in an attempt to regulate their behavior and provides them with guidance for appropriate social behavior and conduct . Research suggests that behavioral control can protect against problem behaviors. For example, higher levels of parental behavioral control is directly associated with less problem drinking in young adulthood among males , less adolescent truancy, less alcohol and marijuana use, and less frequent engagement in early sexual intercourse . In addition, parental control appeared to prevent escalation in externalizing problems among adolescents who reported affiliating with deviant peers. For example, among adolescents who reported deviant peer associations, only those whose parents used low behavioral control increased in their externalizing problems . Behavioral control can be demonstrated through a number of behaviors. The most common ones are monitoring, consistent discipline, and each of these will be addressed in the following section. Corporal punishment and harsh parenting, as forms of behavioral control will also be discussed.
3.1.1. Parental Monitoring
Researchers define parental monitoring as parental behaviors that regulate and provide awareness of their offsprings’ whereabouts, conduct, and companions [26,27]. Parental monitoring is important since it reduces adolescents’ externalizing outcomes. For example, studies have found that greater parental monitoring is associated with less initial adolescent involvement with alcohol and other substances, lower rates of misuse over time [28,29,30], and an increase in the age of an adolescent’s first sexual intercourse, as well as decreased sexual risk behavior [31,32,33,34,35,36,37].
During adolescence, parents’ knowledge of their children’s whereabouts and friends becomes important for reducing and preventing problem behaviors since peers become an important socializing agent. Parental monitoring efforts differ from childhood to adolescence since parents often rely on their offspring to inform them about their location and activities when away from home; therefore, effective parental monitoring relies upon effective parent-child communication. For instance, researchers suggest that the association between parental monitoring and adolescent outcomes is attributed to an adolescent’s disclosure of information rather than parents’ tracking and surveillance . Interestingly, researchers have found that parental solicitation is not associated with adolescent outcomes . Some researchers have suggested that parental knowledge of adolescents’ activities is an aspect of monitoring that is most closely associated with lower levels of problem behavior [40,41]. However, findings indicate that the quality of the relationship between parents and their adolescents plays a substantial role in determining how much information parents can gather about their children’s whereabouts [42,43]. Knowledge of whereabouts reflects parents’ control over outside influences such as peers [42,43]. These research findings suggest that knowledge of whereabouts could be related to less externalizing behaviors, in part, because parents are able to prevent their adolescents from “hanging out” with a risky peer group.
3.1.2. Consistent Discipline
Consistent discipline has been associated with positive outcomes among adolescents. Researchers have found that consistent discipline was associated with positive adolescent adjustment . Consistent discipline also buffers adolescents against the effects of a variety of stressful and negative events. For instance, researchers found that consistent discipline buffered the effects of peer group affiliation on girls’ alcohol use, but not among boys . These authors suggest that adolescents who experience high levels of consistent discipline are more resilient to peer influence because the imposition of parental norms and values discourages adolescents from subscribing to the values of their drug-use promoting peers . Further, inconsistent parental disciplinary behaviors may even inadvertently reinforce adolescent’s conduct problems. Adolescents’ aggressive and noncompliant behavior is reinforced when parents engage in an inconsistent discipline practice when the parent makes a request, the adolescent responds negatively, and the parent backs down . Numerous researchers found associations between higher levels of inconsistent discipline and more behavior problems. For example, inconsistent discipline, relative to more consistent discipline, has been associated with problematic psychological adjustment of adolescents, such as depression and anxiety  and externalizing behaviors, such as delinquent acts .
3.1.3. Harsh Discipline
Harsh parenting, such as threatening, yelling, or screaming in response to misbehavior, is thought to contribute to more frequent externalizing behaviors that normalize violence or aggression . Studies demonstrate that harsh discipline is linked to behavior problems ranging from conduct disorder to depression and low self-esteem. For instance, researchers found that the use of harsh discipline by either parent in a two-parent household was related to greater adolescent depression and externalizing behavior . Some studies have considered differences in harsh discipline based on the gender of both parents and the adolescent. For example, researchers indicate that paternal harsh discipline was more strongly related to sons’ aggression than to daughters’ aggression, whereas there was no gender differential effect with mother’s harsh parenting . Other studies have focused on variables that moderate the association between harsh discipline and adolescent outcomes. These studies show that harsh discipline predicted higher levels of externalizing problems over time for adolescents reporting high antisocial peer affiliations, but not for those with few antisocial peers . In other words, adolescents interactions with deviant peers tend to exacerbate rather than attenuate problems associated with negative family relations.
Although research shows that physical discipline is associated with negative adolescent outcomes, the effects of disciplinary practices vary when contextual factors or other parental behaviors are considered. Researchers have found that families living in poverty have increased use of corporal punishment, in which parents utilize physical punishment, such as hitting with a belt, pushing or grabbing, when administering discipline . Researchers have also found a positive association between corporal punishment and adolescent externalizing behaviors . However, the consequences of corporal punishment may depend on how often parents exhibit effective parenting, the severity of corporal punishment,  and the use of corporal punishment within a community [22,54]. Findings from this research will be discussed later in the section on racial differences in discipline practices.
3.2. Nurturing Parental Behaviors
Parenting behaviors such as parental warmth and support, inductive reasoning, and parent-child communication can facilitate positive adolescent adjustment. It is important to study nurturing parental behaviors since researchers have consistently found them to be associated with enhanced behavioral outcomes, as discussed below. Moreover, nurturing and involved parenting during adolescence appears to protect adolescents from the negative consequences of adversities in their lives . Nurturing behaviors include parental warmth, support, the use of inductive reasoning, and communication.