Copyright 2011 by European Research Network about Parents in Education ISSN: 1973 – 3518
The Relationship Between Parental Knowledge and Adolescent Delinquency: a Longitudinal Study Panayiotis Stavrinides
Department of Psychology University of Cyprus Nicosia, Cyprus
The purpose of the present study was to test the direction of effect in the relationship between parents’ sources of knowledge (parental monitoring and child disclosure) and adolescents’ delinquency. The participants were 157 8th and 9th grade students and their mothers, randomly selected from urban and rural areas in Cyprus. A six-month, twotimepoint longitudinal design was used in which adolescents completed the delinquency scale while mothers completed the parental knowledge questionnaire. The results of this study showed that child disclosure at Time 1 predicted a decrease in both major and minor delinquency at Time 2 whereas adolescent major delinquency at Time 1 predicted a decrease in child disclosure and parental monitoring at Time 2. Contrary to previous wideheld assumption, parental monitoring at Time 1 did not significantly predict a decrease in delinquency at Time 2. Keywords: Parental knowledge, Monitoring, Disclosure, Adolescent delinquency.
Introduction. While children go through the adolescent years their parents increasingly feel that in order to protect their youth they should try and gain more knowledge about their socialization. During the past decade however, several authors shifted their emphasis on the various facets of this knowledge gaining process (Stattin & Kerr, 2000; Crouter & Head, 2002; Laird, Pettit, Bates, & Dodge, 2003). In what ways do parents consciously try to gain knowledge about their children’s whereabouts? How is active parental monitoring different from other sources of knowledge such as child disclosure? And more importantly, what kind of developmental outcomes (i.e. socialization outcomes, emotional and behavioural adjustment) do these different sources of knowledge produce? Thus, it is not surprising that adolescent delinquency has been linked to low or ineffective parenting practices. Parents´ knowledge about their children’s behaviour, and especially about what their children do outside of the safe Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Panayiotis Stavrinides, e-mail: email@example.com environment of home, may not directly decrease risk-taking behaviour on the part of the adolescent. Such knowledge however, could act as a buffer against behaviours that would escalate into antisocial levels (Mounts, 2001; Sullivan, Kung & Farrell, 2004). Parents gain knowledge about their children from two main sources: one is parental monitoring and the other is child disclosure. Parental monitoring is a critical source of parental knowledge and it reflects the parents’ effort to find out directly and through their own observation how their child behaves. It is defined as “a set of correlated parenting behaviours involving attention to and tracking of the child’s whereabouts, activities and adaptation” (Dishion & McMahon, 1998, p.66). Weintraub and Gold (1991) add that monitoring refers to the extent and the quality of communication, and the surveillance that parents exercise over their children’s life. In general, research suggests that parents who systematically monitor their children’s behaviour have adolescents who are less likely to engage in delinquency (Buchanan Maccoby, & Dornbusch, 1996; Jacobson &
PARENTAL KNOWLEDGE AND ADOLESCENT DELINQUENCY
Crockett, 2000; Pettit, Laird, Dodge, Bates, & Criss 2001, Weintraub & Gold, 1991), low levels in substance use (Biglan, Duncan, Ary, & Smolkowski, 1995; Dishion, Capaldi, Spracklen, & Li, 1995; Fletcher, Darling, & Steinberg 1995), premature sexual activity (Longmore, Manning, & Giordano, 2001; Metzler, Noell, Biglan, Ary, & Smolkowski, 1994) and involvement...