Adolescent risk behaviour as related to parenting styles




Petersmeyer, Claudia

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The purpose of this study was to determine adolescents' level of interest and engagement in risk behaviours as it relates to adolescents' and parents' perceptions of the parenting variables, demandingness and responsiveness. Data were collected from both adolescents and parents. The sample was obtained from two schools: (a) 44 Grade 8 students (28 girls, 16 boys) from a local junior high school and their parents (44 mothers, 37 fathers) ; and (b) 33 Grade 8 students (10 girls, 23 boys) from a second local junior high school. In order to examine perceptions of parenting, participants were asked to complete a 33 item questionnaire adapted from Lamborn et al.'s (1991) parenting measure and Greenberg's (1991) Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment. Adolescents were also asked to report on their level of engagement in 26 risk behaviours, adapted from Lavery et al.'s (1993) 23-item Risk Involvement and Perception Scale. Results indicate adolescents' interest in becoming involved in risk behaviours although a relatively low incidence of actual engagement in risk behaviours is evidenced at this time. Adolescents from one school report significantly higher interest in risk behaviours than those from the other (F₃,₇₃ = 4.98, p<.03). However, the relationships between adolescents' ratings of risk behaviours and the two parenting variables were similar at the two schools. Findings were, therefore, reported for the combined group of adolescents (N = 77) . Adolescents' perceptions of parental demandingness and responsiveness were relatively positive overall. Relationships between adolescents' perceptions of parental demandingness and responsiveness, particularly with regard to mothers, were inversely related to interest in risk behaviours (ranging from r = -.62 to r = -.35 for Total Risk Behaviour). Multiple regression analyses indicated that mothers' demandingness, as perceived by adolescents, is the most significant predictor (Standard beta = -.56, p.001) of teens' interest propensity for engagement in risk behaviours. Adolescents' perceptions of parenting are more strongly related to their interest in risk behaviours than are parents' perceptions of their own parenting. Discrepancy scores between perceptions of demandingness and responsiveness indicate that parents typically rated themselves higher on the parenting variables than did their teens. However, the absolute magnitude of discrepancy in parental demandingness was found to be only moderately associated with adolescents' ratings of risk behaviours (r = .32) and no relationship was found for discrepant perceptions of parental responsiveness. Four parenting style groups (Authoritative, Authoritarian, Permissive Indulgent, and Permissive Indifferent), based on Baumrind's conceptual framework, were formed on the basis of adolescents' ratings of their parents' demandingness and responsiveness. Adolescents parented Authoritatively (scores above the median on both variables) reported the lowest level of interest in risk behaviours, whereas teens from Permissive Indifferent families report the highest (F₃,₄₅ = 8.03, p < . 001) . A qualitative study was conducted by examining adolescents' use of leisure time. Eight adolescents, a male and a female chosen from each of the four parenting groups, completed a four-day Activity Log describing what they did, where, and with whom in out-of-school time. Those who were parented Authoritatively reported the fewest risk factors and the lowest level of interest in risk behaviours. Further investigation of adolescents' interest or engagement in risk behaviours, using the Activity Log in conjunction with comprehensive interviews, is warranted. This study contributes to knowledge in this area in several ways: (a) a wide range of risk behaviours was examined in relation to the parenting variables, demandingness and responsiveness; (b) in addition to adolescents' data, both fathers' and mothers' data were examined in relation to adolescents' interest and engagement in risk behaviour; and, (c) new measures, some derived from others' work and one newly created, were employed.



Teenagers, Adolescence, Child development