Steinberg knew it: authoritative parenting does affect teen externalizing problems. But how does it work?

Johanna G. Masche-No

Forskningsoutput: KonferensbidragPoster


Research on preventive effects of authoritative parenting against externalizing problems (Steinberg, 2001) has been criticized for invalid measurements of parental control (Stattin & Kerr, 2000), and that findings might reflect parental reactions rather than parental influences (Glatz et al., 2012; Kerr et al., 2012). However, few studies have assessed bidirectional effects between parenting and externalizing problems, and even less have attempted to explore how the parent-adolescent relationship might mediate these effects from a systems perspective.

Using two annual data collections (N = 1,281/1,274/824 at T1/T2/overlap, resp.) in a representative Swedish community sample of adolescents originally in grades 7-10 (Mage = 15.2, SD = 1.2), bi-directional effects between perceived parenting (warmth, psychological control, behavior control, overcontrol), adolescent relationship satisfaction, goals (establishing autonomy, submission under parental authority), and strategies (disclosure, secrecy), and externalizing problem behaviors (drug/alcohol use, delinquency, aggression) were explored, controlling for the respective dependent variable at T1, gender, and school grade. Parental attitudes (e.g., perceived child depression, satisfaction, and feelings of giving up) were assessed at T2 in a sub-sample (N = 290), allowing for the prediction of these attitudes by T1 externalizing. Missing data were multiply imputed. Still, those analyses involving parent attitudes are tentative due to the lack of T1 measures and the large number of missing data.

Cross-sectionally, all three externalizing behaviors were modestly associated with parenting and relationships in expected directions. However, despite large correlations between the three externalizing behaviors, longitudinal predictions differed. Aggression was not predicted and did not predict parenting and parent-adolescent relationships across time, suggesting that aggression develops at younger age.

Both delinquency and drug/alcohol use predicted parents’ feelings of low satisfaction, poor trust, and of giving up, but none of the adolescent-reported parenting behaviors. Unexpected predictions of high submission under parental authority and of low secrecy by drug/alcohol use could be explained by a statistical suppressor effect. Thus, although parents felt bad about their externalizing children, this did not result in deteriorated parenting as observed by the adolescents, in contrast to previous research (Kerr & Stattin, 2003), and unlike parents’ reactions to internalizing problems in this study.

Supporting parenting effects, low levels of delinquency were predicted by parental overcontrol and tentatively by parental control. Low drug/alcohol use was predicted by parental support, adolescents’ goals rather not to become autonomous but to submit under parental authority, disclosure of information, and low secrecy towards parents. Mediation analyses revealed that adolescents react to parental support by intentions to submit under parental authority and becoming less secretive, which both predicted decreased drug/alcohol use over time. The preventive effect of parental (over-)control against delinquency was found using scales developed by the Stattin/Kerr group rather than the questioned “monitoring” scale. Albeit no direct effect of control on low drug/alcohol use was revealed, a preventive effect of parental support was explained by adolescents’ willingness to accept parental authority and not to keep secrets from them. These findings support a parent-effects theory of authoritative parenting (Steinberg, 2001) and help understand how adolescents’ goals and behaviors mediate parental behaviors.

StatusPublicerad - 2017
EvenemangBiennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD), April 6-8, 2017, Austin, TX, USA -
Varaktighet: 1980-jan.-01 → …


KonferensBiennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD), April 6-8, 2017, Austin, TX, USA
Period80-01-01 → …

Nationell ämneskategori

  • Psykologi (50101)


  • familjerelationer
  • föräldra-barnrelationen
  • föräldraskap
  • tonåringar
  • uppfostransstil
  • utagerande beteenden


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