Parents' Direct Involvement in Adolescents' Peer Relationships

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PARENTS' DIRECT INVOLVEMENT IN ADOLESCENTS' PEER RELATIONSHIPS One of the ways in which parents play a critical role in their sons' and daughters' social development is by encouraging their interactions with other youth; in this way parents provide opportunities for girls and boys to develop social cognitive and relationship formation skills (Ladd, Profilet, & Hart, 1992). According to the model of parenting processes proposed by Parke and colleagues, parental influences on girls' and boys' peer relationships operate through two pathways: indirect socialization and direct involvement (Parke & Buriel, 1998). Models of indirect socialization, such as attachment and social learning perspectives, suggest that parents influence their children's peer interactions indirectly, through the more general influence of parent-child relationship experiences on children's social development and peer competence (e.g., Elicker, Englund, & Sroufe, 1992; MacDonald & Parke, 1984). Parents who are characterized as warm and accepting parents, for example, tend to have children who are more socially competent with peers (MacDonald & Parke, 1984). The focus of recent research, and of this investigation, is the second pathway, parents' direct efforts to guide their offspring's peer relationships, such as when they supervise peer interactions, engineer opportunities for their children to spend time with peers, and generally manage children's social lives (Ladd et al., 1992; Parke & Buriel, 1998). Studies of young children's peer relationships indicate that children benefit from more frequent and more positive interactions with peers and higher levels of social acceptance when parents are involved in those relationships (Bhavnagri & Parke, 1991; Ladd & Goiter, 1988; Lollis, Ross, & Tate, 1992). Considerably less is known about parents' direct involvement in adolescents' peer relationships.

The nature of parents' involvement in their children's social relationships may differ dramatically across developmental periods. For example, during early childhood parents directly intervene in and supervise children's peer interactions, whereas in middle childhood, parents may use a less intrusive approach such as encouraging friendships and monitoring social activities (Rubin & Sloman, 1984). With the exception of the literature on the connections between parental monitoring and deviant peer influences (e.g., Patterson, DeBaryshe, & Ramsey, 1989; Steinberg, 1986), we know little about parents' direct role in adolescents' friendship and peer relationships (for exceptions, see recent conference proceedings, McCoy, 1996; Mounts & McCoy, 1999). The first goal of this investigation was to describe and compare mothers' versus fathers' direct involvement in adolescents' peer relationships. Our choice of measures was guided by Parke and colleagues' model of parenting (Parke & Buriel, 1998), which describes parents' direct involvement as encompassing a variety of roles including instructional activities (e.g., advice giving, support, and encouragement) and the "management and provision of opportunities" (i.e., monitoring social activities, arranging contacts, spending time with adolescents and their peers). Specifically, we included three indices of parents' direct involvement: (a) parents' reports of their peer-oriented activities (e.g., initiating conversations with adolescents about their friendships, talking to the parents of their adolescents' friends); (b) parents' time spent in the company of adolescent offspring and their peers (e.g., chauffeuring adolescents and their friends to activities, attending sporting events with adolescents and their friends); and (c) parents' monitoring of (i.e., knowledge about) their adolescents' peer experiences (e.g., conflicts with peers, special activities with friends). Unlike previous studies of parental monitoring, which have assessed parents' and adolescents' perceptions of parents' general knowledge about their sons'...
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