A longitudinal examination of father-adolescent relations




Almeida, David Manuel

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Despite the growing recognition that the father-child relationship is vital to the development of the child and of the father (Lamb, 1987), little systematic research has addressed changes in father-child relations during adolescence. To overcome this shortcoming, the present study charted changes in aspects of father-adolescent relations over a period of two and one-half years. In addition, this study examined concurrent and reciprocal linkages between father-adolescent relations and the personal characteristics (specifically, the psychological well-being) of fathers and adolescents. Data for the present study consisted of adolescent and father (N = 71) self-reports from a longitudinal questionnaire study spanning 30 months. Data collection occurred on four occasions when the adolescents were 11.6, 12.1, 12.6 and 14.1 years of age (in February 1988, August 1988, February 1989, and August 1990). Measures of father-adolescent relations, father psychological distress, and adolescent self-image were obtained at each time of measurement. Data analysis proceeded in three steps. First, the results showed that fathers decreased their mean level of involvement in child care as their adolescents matured. Fathers' expressions of acceptance toward their adolescents also decreased over the two and one-half years, as did the level of conflictual interactions. Second, fathers who experienced higher distress were likely to experience more conflict with their adolescents as compared to fathers who experienced lower distress. Adolescents who held positive views about themselves were more likely to have accepting father-adolescent relations and to experience less conflict with their fathers. These results remained after controlling for marital adjustment and socioeconomic status. Third, the results of two stage-least squares analyses (2SLS) suggested that the effects between father distress and father-adolescent conflict were unidirectional rather than bi-directional with father distress affecting conflict. Adolescent self-image was reciprocally linked to father-adolescent relations. A positive adolescent self-image appeared to increase the likelihood of more accepting and less conflictual father-adolescent relations. In turn, higher acceptance and lower conflict contributed to more positive adolescent self-image. These results are discussed in terms of the changing functions of fathers in the lives of their adolescent children.



Father and child, Adolescence