What happens to teenagers whose parents are overbearing?
In a new study, researchers found that teens whose parents are overcontrolling struggle with relationships, and educational goals as adults.
They found overbearing and overcontrolling tactics by parents when children were 13 years old were linked to difficulties in relationships and education by the time the teens reached age 32.
The research was conducted by a team at the University of Virginia.
In the study, the team sought to determine the long-term impact on the youth of parenting that is psychologically controlling.
Past research has identified psychological control as a problematic parenting behavior.
Parents attempt to control their children in this way through intrusive and harshly manipulative means (e.g., withdrawing love and affection when the parent is angry at the child, making the child feel guilty for upsetting the parent).
Children whose parents use this tactic tend to have problems such as lower grades and lower self-esteem, likely because the children are discouraged from asserting themselves and gaining independence.
In this study, researchers followed 184 youth annually from ages 13 to 32. The youth, from urban and suburban areas in the Southeastern United States, came from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds.
They found that having overbearing and overcontrolling parents at age 13 was linked to less supportive romantic relationships for those who were in relationships by age 27, a lower likelihood of being in a relationship by age 32, and lower educational attainment by age 32.
These outcomes were explained largely by problems at ages 15 to 16, including that teens were less psychologically mature and were less liked by their peers.
The team says even though parents routinely attempt to guide their children toward successful adaptation, overcontrolling parenting in adolescence has the potential to impede development in a fundamental way that’s not easy to repair.
Parents, educators, and clinicians should be aware of how parents’ attempts to control teens may actually stunt their progress.
This style of parenting likely creates more than a temporary setback for adolescent development because it interferes with the key task of developing autonomy at a critical period.
One author of the study is Emily Loeb, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Virginia.
The study is published in Child Development.
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