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Do parents only have to avoid being nasty, or should they even be nice?: the case of adolescent substance use and deviance
Kristianstad University, School of Education and Environment, Avdelningen för Humanvetenskap. Kristianstad University, Forskningsmiljön ForFame.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5233-2467
Kristianstad University, School of Education and Environment.
Kristianstad University, School of Education and Environment.
2012 (English)Conference paper, Poster (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Traditionally, parents’ firm and consistent behavior control has been regarded as effective protection against adolescents’ drug use and delinquency (Steinberg, 2001). However, the validity of findings has been questioned (Stattin & Kerr, 2000; Kerr & Stattin, 2000). The widely-used indicator of behavior control, parental knowledge, appears rather to reflect a trusting relationship (Masche, 2010). However, little is known about which facets of the relationship are most important: Is it more “nasty,” guilt inducing and interfering behavior, i.e. psychological control, which leads to substance use and deviance? Or is it parents’ ability to be “nice” and create close family relations marked by solidarity that prevents these problem behaviors?

A total of 143 adolescents attending grade 9 (age 15-16, 58% male) in two medium-sized Swedish cities filled out questionnaires at school. Scales on alcohol and drug use focused on frequency and intensity of use and on symptoms of substance abuse. The deviance scale ranged from minor delinquency to violent acts. Adolescents answered also scales on their experienced relationship quality to their parents, on parents’ psychological control and behavior control (e.g., needing permission before going out on the evening). Mother and father scales were summed because of their high inter-correlations. Drug consumption was generally low, and several items did not even vary between participants. Still, all scales were sufficiently reliable (α’s ≥ .80). Because 44% of the sample had other than Swedish ethnic background – in most instances were the parents born in the Middle East –, ethnicity, gender, and their interaction were included into the analyses, but did not predict substance use or deviance.

Although alcohol use and deviance were highly correlated, these two problem behaviors were somewhat differently associated with parenting and relationship variables: Adolescents who consumed a lot of alcohol tended to have poor relationships to psychologically controlling parents. However, deviant adolescents reported in the first place psychologically controlling parents and only to a lesser degree also a poor relationship quality. Drug use (which generally was low) was only associated with psychological control. Multiple regression analyses revealed whether each parenting and relationship variable uniquely predicted substance use and deviance. The results were similar to the bivariate correlations, confirming the general importance of psychological control. Relationship quality still predicted low alcohol use, but was not any longer important for deviance when controlled for psychological control. Behavior control did not predict any of these problem behaviors in any analysis.

This study confirms findings questioning the role of behavior control (Kerr & Stattin, 2000; Stattin & Kerr, 2000). It tells what might be important instead. Hostile, guilt-inducing behavior was consistently associated with externalizing problems whereas a close relationship showed more specific associations. To the degree that parents affect adolescents’ externalizing behaviors rather than are affected by them, these findings suggest that parents above all should avoid being “nasty,” i.e. psychologically controlling. Being “nice,” i.e., to contribute to a close companionship with their children, also appears important, but more specifically against alcohol consumption.  

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
Externalizing problems, Delinquency, Family dynamics/processes, Parenting styles, Parent-adolescent relations, Authoritative parenting, Alcohol use
Keyword [sv]
Utåtriktade problembeteenden, brottslighet, familjeprocesser, uppfostransstilar, föräldra-barnrelation, auktoritativ uppfostran
National Category
Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)
URN: urn:nbn:se:hkr:diva-10201OAI: diva2:605308
Society for Research on Adolescence (SRA) Biennial Meeting, Vancouver, Canada, March 8-10, 2012

Reanalys av medförfattarnas examensuppsats under första författarens handledning

Available from: 2013-02-25 Created: 2013-02-13 Last updated: 2015-02-23Bibliographically approved

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Masche, J. Gowert
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Avdelningen för HumanvetenskapForskningsmiljön ForFameSchool of Education and Environment
Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)

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