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Gepubliceerd in: Journal of Child and Family Studies 5/2024

Open Access 03-08-2023 | Original Paper

Perceived Parental Control, Parent-Adolescent Relationship and Adolescents’ Psychological Adjustment. Does Gender Matter?

Auteurs: Maria Bacikova-Sleskova, Lucia Barbierik, Oľga Orosová

Gepubliceerd in: Journal of Child and Family Studies | Uitgave 5/2024

Abstract

The aim of the present study was to explore the gender-specific links between perceived parental behavioral and psychological control and adolescents’ psychological adjustment directly and indirectly through the quality of the parent-adolescent relationship. The participants in the study were 930 early adolescents (mean age 12.9; SD 0.71; 49.9% girls) who filled in questionnaires about the parenting of their parents (for mothers and fathers respectively) as well as their own psychological adjustment (self-esteem and life satisfaction). The results of the structural equation modeling showed that the perception of adolescents regarding their parents’ behavioral and psychological control is significantly directly and/or indirectly associated with their psychological adjustment. Behavioral control was found to be positively and psychological control negatively associated with psychological adjustment. These associations have shown some gender-specific patterns. Among the boys, perceived control was associated with boys’ psychological adjustment indirectly through the quality of the parent-adolescent relationship for both mothers and fathers. On the other hand, the link between parental control and psychological adjustment among the girls was found to be direct for the father’s control and both direct and indirect for the mother’s control. Maternal control was associated with adolescents’ adjustment only indirectly through the quality of the mother-adolescent relationship while more direct associations were found among the fathers. This was particularly the case for the father-daughter dyad. However, the results were found to contradict previous findings in several points. This could have been attributed to the age of early adolescence as well as the cultural specifics of the sample.
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Research has consistently shown that parenting and parent-adolescent relationships are important means of socialization and have an impact on adolescent development in various domains (Baumrind, 1991; Laursen & Collins, 2009). From the various socialization practices that parents use during their children’s adolescence, it is parental control which has gained particular attention in recent years. Parental control has been described as the set of parenting practices that aim to shape adolescent behavior in order to get the desired outcome (from everyday behavior such as tidying up their bedroom and doing homework to avoiding risk or problem behavior and the development of self-regulation) (Keijsers & Laird, 2014; Kiesner et al., 2010). Parental control has many forms from those which tend to be maladaptive, such as harsh control or psychological control, to more adaptive forms such as behavioral control or monitoring (Grolnick & Pomerantz, 2009). Previous studies have shown that the adequate use of parental control as perceived by adolescents has many positive behavioral outcomes such as lower rates of substance use, lower levels of delinquency and better engagement at school (Gentile et al., 2014; Lipperman-Kreda et al., 2017). However, there has been far less research done on the psychological outcomes of perceived parental control and this is therefore the aim of the present study.
There are several variables which may account for the associations between perceived parental control and adolescent outcomes. One of the most significant is the quality of the parent-adolescent relationship (Laursen & Collins, 2009). The way in which parents try to structure their adolescents’ lives through parental control contributes to the overall emotional climate in the family and the quality of parent-adolescent relationship. This in turn affects adolescents’ development (Laursen & Collins, 2009; McKinney & Renk, 2011a). The aim of this study is to explore the associations between perceived parental control, the quality of the parent-adolescent relationship and the psychological adjustment of early adolescents.

Parental Control and Adolescent Adjustment

The use of parental control is seen as the central dimension of parenting (Baumrind, 1991; Steinberg, 2001). The character of certain practices of control and the way in which parents assert control is an important factor in adolescent development (Bacikova-Sleskova et al., 2021; Grolnick & Pomerantz, 2009). Previous research has made an important distinction between two types of parental control; behavioral control and psychological control. These differ in both their manifestation and consequences.
Behavioral control (often referred to as monitoring) is characterized by parental supervision, providing rules about acceptable and unacceptable behavior and the monitoring of adolescent behavior (Barber et al., 1994; Grolnick & Pomerantz, 2009; Keijsers & Laird, 2014; Kiesner et al., 2010). Overall, both parent-reported and adolescent-reported behavioral control has been associated with many positive short-term and long-term outcomes including lower levels of problem behavior, substance use and risk sexual behavior as well as fewer problem friends, less problematic internet use and better achievement at school (Carroll et al., 2016; Gentile et al., 2014; Lipperman-Kreda et al., 2017).
Most previous studies have primarily focused on the effect of behavioral control on avoiding negative behavior. However, there has been a recent developmental trend among adolescents showing a decrease in externalizing behaviors and an increase in various forms of internalizing behaviors (Bor et al., 2014; De Looze et al., 2015). Therefore, there is a growing need to study parental control in the context of positive outcomes such as well-being, self-esteem and life satisfaction. From the few previously published studies, it can be assumed that perceived behavioral control is associated with worse psychological adjustment (Kakihara et al., 2010; van Lissa et al., 2019). On the other hand, one study among early adolescents has shown that when behavioral control is introduced with high levels of parental knowledge, it is associated with positive outcomes one year later (Bacikova-Sleskova et al., 2021). Similarly, Kakihara et al. (2010) have reported that the negative effects of parental control on psychological adjustment are primarily present in older adolescents. It can be assumed that the age of adolescents plays an important role when considering the effect of parental behavioral control on positive outcomes.
In contrast to behavioral control, psychological control is characterized by the parental manipulation of adolescents’ emotions, feelings and thoughts. This is done using various behaviors such as guilt induction, conditional love or love withdrawal, anxiety induction or showing disrespect (Barber, 1996; Janssens et al., 2017; Soenens & Vansteenkiste, 2010). Parents who use psychological control are not responsive to the emotional and psychological needs of their children (Barber et al., 2005). Psychological control has been shown to be ineffective in reducing unwanted behavior in many different samples (Janssens et al., 2017; Kincaid et al., 2011). Moreover, it negatively affects adolescents’ psychological adjustment such as self-esteem, psychological well-being, depression symptoms and anxiety (Cui et al., 2014; Mabbe et al., 2016; Costa et al., 2015). The results are similar for both parent-reported as well as adolescent-reported psychological control.

Parent-Adolescent Relationship and Adolescent Adjustment

The quality of the parent-adolescent relationship plays a key role in optimal adolescent development (Laursen & Collins, 2009; Steinberg, 2001). The relationship between parents and adolescents includes both positive and negative aspects. The positive aspects included in previous studies have been mutual warmth, support, affection, intimate disclosure, closeness and quality time spent together, while the negative aspects include conflicts, alienation or antagonism (Branje et al., 2010; Furman & Buhrmester, 1992; Laursen & Collins, 2009). It has been shown that high levels of positive aspects such as support and low levels of negative aspects such as conflicts have been associated with better mental health and well-being, higher self-esteem, fewer depressive symptoms, better academic achievement and fewer risky behaviors (Bacikova-Sleskova et al., 2011; Branje et al., 2010; Brouillard et al., 2018). The importance of considering both the positive and negative aspects of the parent-adolescent relationship in one model has been stressed as they may uniquely contribute to adolescent adjustment (Branje et al., 2010; Brouillard et al., 2018; Furman & Buhrmester, 1992). The present study makes a distinction between the positive and negative aspects of the relationship as perceived by adolescents.

Parental Control, Parent-adolescent Relationship and Adolescent Adjustment

There are a number of variables which may be responsible for the associations between perceived parental control and adolescent outcomes. The quality of the parent-adolescent is among one of the most important (Laursen & Collins, 2009). The way in which parents try to structure their adolescents’ lives through parental control contributes to the overall emotional climate in the family and influences the levels of mutual warmth, perceived support and frequency of conflicts (Bosmans et al., 2006; Laursen & Collins, 2009; McKinney & Renk, 2011a). Indeed, psychologically controlling parents that use guilt induction, public shaming or conditional love may provoke more conflicts with their adolescents. Moreover, research has shown that psychological control is associated with lower levels of parental warmth (Güngör & Bornstein, 2010). On the other hand, behavioral control is often interpreted as a sign of parental interest in their adolescents (Pomerantz & Eaton, 2000). This can lead to a better parent-child relationship and may subsequently increase adolescents’ own psychological adjustment (Milevsky et al., 2007). In line with this, Bosmans et al. (2006) found that a high-quality parent-adolescent relationship (represented by secure attachment) mediates the link between harsh maternal control and adolescent externalizing behaviors.
Self-determination theory (SDT) (Deci & Ryan, 2000) also offers further support for the association between parental control and the parent-adolescent relationship. According to SDT, parental control brings the desired outcomes if it is provided in such a way that it helps to satisfy all three basic psychological needs – the need for autonomy, competence and relatedness (Soenens & Vansteenkiste, 2010; Deci & Ryan, 2000). Controlling parenting (i.e. psychological control) leads to the frustration of these psychological needs (Soenens & Vansteenkiste, 2010). It can be assumed that the threat to the need for autonomy, competence and relatedness elicits more conflicts and less perceived warmth in the mutual relationship. On the other hand, parental behavioral control and monitoring may contribute to satisfying the need for relatedness (Hamza & Willoughby, 2011; Rodríguez-Meirinhos et al., 2020) which may help adolescents perceive the relationship with their parents as better.

Gender Differences

The question as to whether the socialization process in a family differs by gender has not yet been sufficiently addressed in developmental psychology. There is a substantial amount of research which has shown that parenting differs regarding the gender of both the parent and the child and that boys and girls might be differently affected by parenting (Gryczkowski et al., 2010). In adolescence, mothers are more involved in their child’s everyday life than fathers (Bornstein, 2015). They spend more time with their children, are more responsible for the daily care and discipline (McKinney & Renk, 2011a) and are more engaged in their children’s emotional life than fathers (Klimes‐Dougan et al., 2007). As a result, mothers use both adaptive and maladaptive forms of control more than fathers do (Shek, 2008). This is also consistent regarding the reports of both parents and adolescents (Mastrotheodoros et al., 2019). Moreover, adolescents perceive their mothers as more supportive than their fathers and tend to perceive the relationship with their mother as closer (van Lissa et al., 2019). While there seem to be differences in the intensity of parenting between mother and father, it is important that mothers and fathers use generally similar parenting strategies for optimal adolescent development (Simons & Conger, 2007; Tavassolie et al., 2016).
There have been several gender differences in parenting found regarding the gender of the child. However, this pattern is not as clear regarding parental gender. In particular, adolescent girls generally perceive greater parental behavioral control than boys (i.e. girls report more parental monitoring and more rules than boys) (Smetana & Daddis, 2002; van Lissa et al., 2019). However, the gender differences are not as clear regarding parental psychological control. In some studies, boys reported higher perceived psychological control than girls (Luebbe et al., 2014; Shek, 2008) while other studies did not find any gender differences (Cui et al., 2014; Mabbe et al., 2016).
With regard to the effect of maternal or paternal control on adolescents’ outcomes, the results have suggested that an adequate level of behavioral control used by the mother has a stronger effect on the desired outcome than the control used by the father. On the other hand, maladaptive forms of paternal control (e.g. psychological control, harsh control, behavioral overcontrol) have a stronger negative effect on adolescents than maladaptive maternal control (Keijsers et al., 2010; Soenens et al., 2006). However, there has been relatively little work done on the effects of parental control in specific parent-adolescent gender dyads.
The associations between perceived parental control, parent-adolescent relationships and adolescent psychological adjustment may vary according to both the adolescent and parental gender. Several studies have shown stronger effects of parenting in same sex parent-adolescent dyads (Crouter et al., 1995; Murray et al., 2014; van Lissa et al., 2019). This may be partially explained by the social cognitive theory perspective (Bussey & Bandura, 1999) where there is a stronger tendency to imitate the behavior of the same-sex parent. Moreover, adolescents spend more time with parents of the same sex (Crouter et al., 1995) and have closer relationships with them (Laursen & Collins, 2009). It has also been found that parents of the same sex are more responsive to their child (Furman & Buhrmester, 1992). Therefore, in the present study it was expected that the links between parenting, the parent-adolescent relationship and adolescent outcomes would be stronger for the dyads of the same sex.

The Present Study

The current study aimed to explore the gender-specific links between parental behavioral and psychological control as perceived by adolescents and adolescents’ psychological adjustment. Further, it aimed to study whether these associations were also indirect through the quality of the parent-adolescent relationship. It was expected that in a sample of early adolescents, perceived behavioral control would be positively and perceived psychological control would be negatively associated with adolescents’ psychological adjustment. Moreover, it was expected that this relationship would be both direct and indirect through the parent-adolescent relationship. It was further expected that the relationships would be gender specific with the strongest associations for dyads of the same sex.
This study aimed to add to the existing knowledge of this topic on several points. Firstly, previous research has shown the importance of considering the gender of both the adolescents and parents when studying the effects of parenting (Branje et al., 2010; Van Lissa et al., 2019). However, this has not always been done in parenting studies. Thus, the present study has taken the gender of both the parents and adolescents into account in order to get a more nuanced insight into parenting. Secondly, the level of parental control as well some aspects of the parent-adolescent relationship change during the course of adolescence with the largest change occurring in the first years (De Goede et al., 2009). Therefore, studying parenting in mixed aged samples may provide inaccurate results. In order to overcome this, the present study focuses on an age homogenous group of seventh grade early adolescents. Thirdly, the use of parental control, the way in which adolescents interpret parental control and the effects of control seem to be culturally specific (Chen et al., 2016; Güngör & Bornstein, 2010; Marbell & Grolnick, 2013). In countries where collectivistic values are dominant, parents use more controlling behavior towards their children than parents in individualistic countries (Dwairy & Achoui, 2010). Moreover, adolescents in collectivistic countries tend to interpret their parents control more positively, i.e. as more legitimate and less intrusive (Chao & Aque, 2009; Chen et al., 2016) and thus may benefit from parental control not only in reducing unwanted behavior but also in promoting psychological adjustment and positive development (Cao et al., 2020). Therefore, the knowledge regarding the effects of parental control would benefit from studies carried out on a range of diverse countries and cultures.

Methods

Participants

The study was conducted on a sample of 1133 early adolescents with a mean age of 12.9 (age range 12 to 15) and evenly distributed gender (50.1% girls). The respondents were pupils from 24 primary schools across Slovakia. The schools were selected based on their location (region within Slovakia) and population size of the city. In each school, all classes of seventh graders were involved in the research. The respondents filled in questionnaires during regular school lessons on a voluntary and confidential basis without the presence of a teacher. Data were collected by a team of trained researchers and their assistants. Parental approval for their child’s participation was obtained. Adolescents who did not wish to participate or parents who did not give consent were moved to different classroom for the duration of the data collection. The study obtained local university ethic committee approval and parental approval for the child to be included in the study. Within this current study, the data from the adolescents who filled in the questions regarding both their mothers and fathers were included (N = 930, mean age 12.9; SD 0.71; 49.9% girls).

Measures

All the measures used in the study were back translated to Slovak by a native speaker. Any inconsistences in any particular items were then discussed by two experts in developmental psychology and the items were subsequently adjusted. The respondents were asked to fill in the questionnaires regarding their own parents or step-parents if they spent more time with them. All items were answered separately for the mother and father. The mean score of each measure was calculated and included in the analyses.

Behavioral Control

The measure includes two scales: the 8-item Parental Expectations for Behavior Scale and the 8-item Parental Monitoring of Behavior Scale from the Parental Regulation Scale – Youth Self-Report. The original scales were developed by Barber (Barber, 1996, In. Soenens et al., 2006) and have been validated by Soenens et al. (2006). In line with the recommendation by Soenens et al. (2006), the general score for Behavioral control was obtained by calculating the mean of the 16 items for Expectations for Behavior (e.g. “My mother/ father requires that I behave in certain ways.”) and Monitoring of Behavior (e.g. “My mother asks me questions about how I behave outside the home.”). The possible answers ranged from (1) I don’t agree at all to (5) I definitely agree. A higher mean score indicates more perceived behavioral control. The scale has good internal consistency in the current sample with α = 0.771 for mothers and α = 0.816 for fathers.

Psychological Control

Psychological control was measured by the 6-item Psychological Control Scale – Youth Self-Report (PCS-YSR; Barber, 1996). The respondents answered questions on a 5-point Likert type scale ranging from (1) disagree to (5) agree regarding their parents’ use of shaming, disrespect or manipulation (e.g. “My mother/ father is always trying to change how I feel or think about things.”). A higher mean score indicates more perceived maternal/ paternal psychological control. The scale has adequate internal consistency with α = 0.769 for mothers and α = 0.752 for fathers.

Parent-adolescent Relationship

Both the positive and negative aspects of the parent-adolescent relationship were assessed using subscales from The Network of Relationships Social Provision Version NRI-SPV (Furman & Buhrmester, 1985). The original measure has 10 subscales. For the present study, three subscales were used for the positive aspects of the parent-adolescent relationship (affection, intimate disclosure, reassurance of worth) and two subscales were used for the negative aspect of the relationship (conflict, antagonism). Each of the subscales consists of 3-items and were answered on a 5-point scale ranging from (1) little or none to (5) the most. A higher mean score indicates a higher level of perceived positive or negative relationship with the particular parent. The Cronbach alphas for the separate subscales were as follows: affection mother (α = 0.740), father (α = 0.774); worth mother (α = 0.681), father (α = 0.713); intimate disclosure mother (α = 0.762), father (α = 0.742); conflict mother (α = 0.763), father (α = 0.734); antagonism mother (α = 0.753), father (α = 0.732).

Self-esteem

In order to measure adolescents’ self-esteem, the 10-item Rosenberg self-esteem scale (Rosenberg, 1979) was used. The scale consists of five items for the positive aspects of self-esteem and five for the negative. The respondents answered the questions on a 4-point Likert type scale ranging from (1) definitely agree to (4) definitely disagree. The negative aspects were recoded so that a higher mean score of the scale represented higher self-esteem. The Cronbach alpha for the sample was α = 0.740.

Life satisfaction

Life satisfaction was measured using six 1-item questions. Adolescents were asked “In general, how satisfied are you with the financial situation of your family/yourself, with the relationship with your mother/ relationship with your father/ relationship with your friends/ your appearance.” The answers ranged from (1) very dissatisfied to (5) very satisfied. The items used within the current study were also included in the ESPAD study (Hibell et al., 2012). In the present study, a mean score of the items was calculated in order to obtain the average life satisfaction in various domains. This approach has previously been used and validated by Ng et al. (2018). The internal consistency of the measure was α = 0.731.

Statistics/analytical Strategy

For the basic descriptive statistics, Pearson correlation analyses, an independent sample t-test and paired samples t-test in SPSS 20 were used. The effect size for the gender differences was estimated using Cohen’s d (Cohen, 1988). In order to describe the missing data pattern, the respondents who filled in the questions regarding both mothers and fathers (included in the study) were compared to those who did not (the original sample). The samples were not found to differ in gender (χ2 = 0.785, p = 0.375), school achievement (t = 1.55, p = 0.121), life satisfaction (t = 0.488, p = 0.835), self-esteem (t = 0.954, p = 0.340) or problem behavior (t = 1.774, p = 0.076). In the final sample, the missing values in the separate variables did not exceed 8%. In the case of missingness, the values were imputed by the mean of the individual items. In order to test the hypothesized relationship between the studied variables, structural equation modeling (SEM) was performed in AMOS 20. Before performing the analysis, the assumptions for using SEM (normal distribution, normality of residuals, and linear relationship) were checked and fulfilled. Four measurement models were estimated: mother-girl, mother-boy, father-girl and father-boy. The fit of the SEM models was evaluated using the following criteria. By this, the insignificant difference from the saturated model showed a good fit of the model in the log-likelihood test. However, the log-likelihood test is sensitive to a large sample size. Thus, descriptive indices of fit were also used as follows: GFI ≥ 0.9; CFI ≥ 0.95; RMSEA < 0.08 (Byrne, 2010). As the hypothesized model fitted data well, there was no need to add covariances between items.
There were eight one-tailed associations which were hypothesized and tested in the model. Due to the inferential tests, a Bonferroni adjustment to the alpha level was applied. Since the Amos output includes p-values from the two-tailed and not one-tailed tests, this corresponds to p-values lower than 2*0.05/8 = 0.0125 in the Amos outputs. Therefore, a p-value of 0.0125 was considered as the threshold for statistical significance. In order to test the indirect effect, 200 bootstrapped resamples and a 95% confidence interval were applied to construct the indirect path. Bias-corrected confidence intervals that did not include 0 were considered significant for the indirect effect of the independent variable on the dependent variable via a mediator.

Results

Table 1 shows the bivariate correlations between the measures used within the present study. The correlations are reported for the girls and boys separately. Generally, there was a strong association between perceived maternal and paternal processes which indicates that the parenting of mothers and fathers in one family tends to be similar. Furthermore, behavioral and psychological control were not correlated among either the mothers or fathers.
Table 1
Correlations between studied variables
  
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.
14.
15.
16.
1.
Self-esteem
1
0.40
0.13
0.22
0.18
0.19
0.15
0.22
0.25
0.20
0.23
0.20
0.24
0.26
0.21
0.23
2.
Life satisfaction
0.60
1
0.11
0.16
0.19
0.08
0.15
0.16
0.17
0.15
0.17
0.22
0.27
0.28
0.15
0.18
3.
Behavioral control (M)
0.12
0.18
1
−0.01
0.67
−0.01
0.35
0.29
0.34
−0.07
−0.07
0.27
0.27
0.25
−0.07
−0.06
4.
Psychological control (M)
0.34
0.32
−0.02
1
0.11
0.70
0.00
0.20
−0.09
0.51
0.53
0.01
0.15
−0.09
0.37
0.43
5.
Behavioral control (F)
0.12
0.19
0.76
−0.10
1
0.06
0.27
0.27
0.26
0.10
0.17
0.35
0.44
0.36
−0.05
−0.09
6.
Psychological control (F)
0.30
0.25
0.06
0.69
0.09
1
0.10
−0.09
0.00
0.29
0.33
0.03
0.13
−0.09
0.46
0.52
7.
Intimate disclosure (M)
0.21
0.20
0.25
0.24
0.19
0.12
1
0.33
0.52
0.06
0.07
0.68
0.16
0.30
0.17
0.15
8.
Affection (M)
0.21
0.22
0.17
0.24
0.14
0.12
0.33
1
0.62
0.18
0.20
0.21
0.66
0.45
−0.05
0.11
9.
Reassurance of worth (M)
0.26
0.25
0.20
0.24
0.20
0.10
0.43
0.56
1
0.10
0.10
0.36
0.38
0.62
0.08
0.05
10.
Conflict (M)
0.24
0.26
−0.09
0.52
0.18
0.32
0.11
0.15
0.14
1
0.78
0.06
0.12
−0.07
0.58
0.48
11.
Antagonism (M)
0.29
0.26
−0.08
0.48
0.12
0.34
0.14
0.10
0.15
0.76
1
0.05
0.14
−0.07
0.49
0.61
12.
Intimate disclosure (F)
0.18
0.20
0.26
0.16
0.33
0.16
0.56
0.14
0.24
0.10
0.11
1
0.41
0.50
0.07
0.05
13.
Affection (F)
0.16
0.16
0.11
0.17
0.18
0.22
0.13
0.63
0.32
0.15
0.12
0.27
1
0.71
0.10
0.17
14.
Reassurance of worth (F)
0.19
0.20
0.21
0.19
0.25
0.28
0.21
0.38
0.62
0.10
0.14
0.42
0.61
1
−0.07
0.10
15.
Conflict (F)
0.22
0.20
−0.01
0.34
−0.02
0.53
0.01
−0.05
0.01
0.52
0.40
−0.06
0.20
0.21
1
0.77
16.
Antagonism (F)
0.25
0.19
−0.03
0.31
−0.04
0.51
−0.04
−0.05
−0.03
0.45
0.57
0.12
0.22
0.24
0.77
1
Values below diagonal refer to girls’ perceptions, above diagonal to boys’ perceptions
M mother, F father; Significant (p ≤ 0.05) correlations are in bold

Gender Differences

In the first step, the gender differences were analyzed in the studied variables. Table 2 refers to the differences in self-esteem, life-satisfaction, parental control and the parent-adolescent relationship between boys and girls. There were few gender differences which were identified. The girls reported a significantly lower level of self-esteem and life satisfaction. The Cohen’s d indicated a medium effect size for the differences in self-esteem and a small one for life-satisfaction. With regard to the parenting variables, the girls reported less antagonism with the mother and less intimate disclosure, conflict and antagonism with the father than the boys. However, the effect size of those differences was found to be low.
Table 2
Differences in studied variables between boys and girls
 
Girls
Boys
t-test
d
 
Mean
SD
Mean
SD
  
Psychological adjustment
Self-esteem
2.59
0.43
2.80
0.37
8.13a
0.52
Life satisfaction
3.91
0.65
4.07
0.66
3.58a
0.20
Perceived parental control
Behavioral control (M)
3.77
0.52
3.76
0.51
−0.39
0.03
Psychological control (M)
2.51
0.80
2.58
0.80
1.24
0.07
Behavioral control (F)
3.65
0.56
3.59
0.61
−1.55
0.07
Psychological control (F)
2.41
0.72
2.44
0.77
0.74
0.05
Parent-adolescent relationship
     
Intimate disclosure (M)
3.01
1.08
2.96
1.05
−0.62
0.04
Affection (M)
4.07
0.74
4.10
0.81
0.73
0.05
Reassurance of worth (M)
3.56
0.76
3.60
0.78
0.88
0.06
Conflict (M)
2.04
0.90
2.13
0.91
1.56
0.07
Antagonism (M)
1.93
0.89
2.08
0.96
2.39b
0.14
Intimate disclosure (F)
2.48
1.05
2.68
1.05
2.85c
0.13
Affection (F)
3.95
0.84
3.98
0.90
0.52
0.03
Reassurance of worth (F)
3.42
0.84
3.46
0.88
0.70
0.05
Conflict (F)
1.85
0.81
2.09
0.92
4.10a
0.27
Antagonism (F)
1.86
0.86
2.04
0.93
2.94c
0.14
M mother, F father
ap ≤ 0.001
bp ≤ 0.05
cp ≤ 0.01
Table 3 reports the differences between the mothers and fathers as perceived by the adolescents. The paired comparisons of the mothers and fathers revealed significant differences in all the studied variables with the exception of antagonism. The adolescents reported their mothers as using both more behavioral and psychological control in comparison to the fathers with a medium effect size difference for behavioral control. The adolescents reported having more intimate disclosure, affection, reassurance of worth and conflict with their mothers than their fathers. There was a large effect size for the difference in intimate disclosure.
Table 3
Differences in parenting between mother and father as perceived by adolescents, paired comparison
 
Mother
Father
t-test
d
 
Mean
SD
Mean
SD
  
Perceived parental control
Behavioral control
3.77
0.52
3.62
0.59
10.08a
0.69
Psychological control
2.55
0.80
2.44
0.75
5.41a
0.35
Parent-adolescent relationship
Intimate disclosure
3.00
1.06
2.57
1.05
13.38a
0.90
Affection
4.08
0.77
3.95
0.88
5.41a
0.35
Reassurance of worth
3.58
0.77
3.44
0.87
5.58a
0.35
Conflict
2.08
0.90
1.96
0.87
4.05a
0.28
Antagonism
1.98
0.92
1.94
0.90
1.49
0.07
ap ≤ 0.001

Structural Equation Modeling

Structural Equation Modeling was used to examine whether parental behavioral and psychological control are associated with adolescents’ psychological adjustment directly or indirectly through the positive and negative characteristics of the parent-child relationship. There were three latent variables used in the model. The indicators of the latent variable for the positive parent-adolescent relationship (PAR) were affection, intimate disclosure and reassurance of worth. The indicators for the negative PAR were conflict and antagonism. Adolescent self-esteem and life satisfaction served as indicators for psychological adjustment. All factor loadings exceeded 0.60 which indicated good convergent validity. The hypothesized model is shown in Fig. 1.
There were two sets of models which were estimated. The first model was estimated for the adolescents’ rating of their mothers’ behavior while the second model was for the adolescents’ rating of their fathers’ behavior. Moreover, each model was estimated separately for the girls and boys in order to explore the gender specific relationships.

Maternal Measurement Models

A structural model of the relationship between perceived maternal behavioral and psychological control, the positive and negative aspects of PAR and adolescent psychological adjustment was estimated (Fig. 2 – only the significant paths are shown). The standardized factor loadings for the boys appear on the left while the standardized factor loadings for the girls appear on the right. The figure displays the maternal model and path coefficients for the boys and girls. The fit statistics indicated a good fit for both the girls (χ2 (21) = 29.3, p ≥ 0.05; GFI = 0.986; CFI = 0.993; RMSEA = 0.029) and the boys (χ2 (21) = 54.7, p ≤ 0.001; GFI = 0.974; CFI = 0.971; RMSEA = 0.059).
The results show that the maternal model explained approximately 28% of the variance in the girls’ psychological adjustment and 22% of the variance in the boys’. Maternal behavioral and psychological control explained 17% and 16% of the variance in the positive PAR and 33% and 32% of the variance in the negative PAR for the girls and boys respectively.
Perceived maternal behavioral control was only significantly associated with the positive PAR for both genders (β = 0.27 for girls, β = 0.38 for boys). Perceived maternal psychological control was associated with the negative PAR for both genders (β = 0.57 for girls, β = 0.56 for boys) and adversely with the positive PAR (β = −0.32) and psychological adjustment (β = −0.23) only for the girls.
The indirect relationships between maternal control and psychological adjustment through the positive and negative PAR were also examined. For the girls, both behavioral and psychological control were indirectly associated with psychological adjustment (for behavioral control p = 0.005; bootstrap 95% CI 0.031/0.091; for psychological control p = 0.005; bootstrap 95% CI −0.128/−0.041). For the boys, the link between behavioral control and psychological adjustment was mediated through the positive PAR (p = 0.008; bootstrap 95% CI 0.032/0.123), while the link between psychological control and adjustment was mediated through the negative PAR (p = 0.019; 95% CI −0.091/−0.016).

Paternal Measurement Models

Figure 3 shows the model for the relationships between the adolescents’ rating of their fathers’ behavioral and psychological control, positive and negative PAR and adolescents’ psychological adjustment (only significant paths are shown). The estimation of the paternal model showed a good model fit for both the girls (χ2 (21) = 53.7, p ≤ 0.001; GFI = 0.974; CFI = 0.973; RMSEA = 0.058) and the boys (χ2 (21) = 48.5, p ≤ 0.001; GFI = 0.978; CFI = 0.978; RMSEA = 0.053).
Overall, the paternal model explained 21% and 31% of the variance in psychological adjustment for the girls and boys respectively. Both forms of perceived parental control explained 21% of the variance in the positive PAR for both sexes and 29% (girls) and 34% (boys) of the variance in the negative PAR.
The perceived behavioral control of the fathers was statistically significantly associated with the positive PAR for the girls (β = 0.31) and the boys (β = 0.44). The perceived psychological control of the fathers was statistically significantly associated with the negative PAR for both genders (β = 0.58 for girls, β = 0.53 for boys) and adversely with the positive PAR (β = −0.33 for girls, β = −0.13 for boys). Behavioral control was associated with the negative PAR only among the boys (β = −0.11). The psychological adjustment of the adolescents was associated with both behavioral and psychological (adversely) control only among the girls (β = 0.17 for behavioral control, β = −0.24 for psychological control). On the other hand, psychological adjustment was associated with the positive PAR and negative PAR (adversely) only among the boys (β = 0.40 for positive, β = −0.25 for negative processes).
The indirect relationships were also examined in the paternal model. For the girls, neither the positive nor negative PAR mediated the link between the father’s psychological or behavioral control and psychological adjustment. For the boys, both forms of paternal control were indirectly associated with psychological adjustment (for behavioral control p = 0.004; bootstrap 95% CI 0.057/0.128; for psychological control p = 0.009; bootstrap 95% CI −0.094/−0.026).

Discussion

This study aimed to contribute to the ongoing debate about the role of parental control and the overall parent-adolescent relationship in adolescents’ adjustment by taking the gender of both parents and adolescents into account.
The basic associations between the studied variables indicate that adolescents perceive the parenting of their mothers and fathers as similar, supporting previously published findings of parental reports on their own parenting (Baumrind, 1991; Tavassolie et al., 2016). Several studies have shown that mothers and fathers having a similar parenting style is important for optimal adolescent development (Simons & Conger, 2007; Tavassolie et al., 2016).
With regard to the gender differences in perceived parenting, the current results are generally in line with previous findings which have shown better perceived relationships with parents for girls in comparison to boys (Branje et al., 2012; Keijsers et al., 2010; van Lissa et al., 2019). On the other hand, the girls in the present study did not perceive parental control as stronger than boys which contradicts previous results (Luebbe et al., 2014; Shek, 2008; Smetana & Daddis, 2002; van Lissa et al., 2019). Basic gender comparisons of the studied variables have indicated some interesting patterns. Boys reported more antagonism and conflict (with fathers only) than girls, while both genders reported equal levels of affection and reassurance of worth from their parents. Despite this however, girls reported worse self-esteem and life satisfaction than boys which is largely consistent with the findings of other samples (Moksnes & Espnes, 2013; Sarkova et al., 2013). This raises the question as to what the broader patterns are in the differences between boys and girls development worth exploring in future research.
In terms of the differences between the mothers and fathers, the adolescents perceived mothering as more intense, i.e. mothers were perceived as using more behavioral and psychological control, having more conflicts with their children as well as more intimate disclosure, affection and more frequent reassurance of worth. These results contribute to previous knowledge that mothers are more intensively involved in their adolescents’ lives than fathers (Klimes‐Dougan et al., 2007; Mastrotheodoros et al., 2019; McKinney & Renk, 2011a).

Perceived Parental Control and Adolescent Adjustment

Overall, the adolescents’ perception of their parents’ behavioral and psychological control was significantly directly and/or indirectly associated with their psychological adjustment. The direction of associations was found to differ for psychological and behavioral control. Psychological control was associated with the negative aspects of the PAR and inversely with the positive aspects as well as decreased psychological adjustment represented by self-esteem and life satisfaction. This supports the results from a number of previous studies (Costa et al., 2015; Güngör & Bornstein, 2010) which have shown the negative effects of psychological control on various aspects of adolescents’ adjustment. On the other hand, behavioral control was found to lead (directly or indirectly) to better psychological adjustment of adolescents which contradicts previous findings (Kakihara et al., 2010; Van Lissa et al., 2019). According to the stage-environment fit theory (Eccless et al., 1993), opportunities given by the environment and needs of an individual should be balanced in order to ensure optimal development. In the context of parenting, parents have to adjust their behavior according to the needs of their offspring at particular stages of development. This is particularly the case in early adolescence when the need for autonomy increases. Therefore, parents need to introduce an optimal level and form of parental control. Several previous studies have shown that while behavioral control is desirable in avoiding risky behavior and externalizing problems, it might also be associated with lower psychological adjustment (Kakihara et al., 2010; Van Lissa et al., 2019). This may lead to the feelings of overcontrol or incompetence that adolescents often feel when controlled by parents (Kakihara & Tilton‐Weaver, 2009; Kapetanovic et al., 2020). This is particularly apparent in the domains that are perceived as personal (Smetana et al., 2005). However, in the present study, both maternal and paternal behavioral control was associated with better psychological adjustment for boys and girls. There are two main aspects which need to be considered in explaining these contradictory findings: age and cultural specifics.

Age Considerations

At the beginning of adolescence, parental behavior that is characterized by limit-setting, monitoring and providing a structure (i.e. behavioral control) might still be perceived as a sign of parental interest rather than the intrusiveness of autonomy (Pomerantz & Eaton, 2000). Moreover, the current results that behavioral control is not associated with the negative aspects of the PAR such as conflicts and antagonism but is positively associated with affection, intimacy and reassurance of worth (i.e. positive PAR) suggests that behavioral control is interpreted positively in early adolescence.

Cultural Considerations

The other aspect that should be taken into account are the cultural specifics. Parents in different cultures vary in their parenting goals and parenting values. Although these might be specific for each nation, they are generally hypothesized to be related to the level of individualism and collectivism in a country (Prevoo & Tamis-LeMonda, 2017). Countries with a higher level of individualism appraise individual values such as personal freedom or time for oneself. On the other hand, countries that are characterized by a higher level of collectivism value good interpersonal relations and group benefits. Therefore, countries also differ in their “parenting priorities” where parents in a particular society endorse a child’s independence or obedience (Park & Lau, 2016). In individualistic societies, parents foster their child’s independence in order for their children to grow up as autonomous and independent individuals. In contrast, parents in collectivistic societies emphasize group harmony and understanding oneself in relation to the context and relationship with others. Thus, parents in individualistic countries use parenting strategies that emphasize independence such as autonomy support, while parents in collectivistic countries stress the importance of group goals and obedience (Park & Lau, 2016).
Cultural differences can be also found in the way in which parenting behavior is perceived and interpreted by adolescents. Previous findings from different cultural backgrounds have suggested that parental control in adolescence is perceived positively and brings the desired outcomes in countries characterized by more collectivistic rather than individualistic values (Cao et al., 2020; Chen et al., 2016; Marbell & Grolnick, 2013). One study found that parental psychological control characterized by guilt induction was perceived more negatively by Belgian than Chinese adolescents (Chen et al., 2016). Another example can be found in research by Chao and Aque (2009) who found that Afro-American adolescents perceive highly controlling behavior as showing parental love and interest. Similarly in Ghana, less controlling parental behavior was perceived as neglectful with a lack of parental interest (Marbell & Grolnick, 2013). Although Slovakia is a European country that does not differ considerably from other European countries regarding its culture and primary values, it still scores quite low on the individualism scale in comparison to western countries (Bašnáková et al., 2016). Moreover, there is a strong Catholic background which endorses the importance of family and obedience. A further specific of Slovak parenting is the time spent with children as a result of the social system and lower financial resources in Slovak families. Mothers usually take maternity leave for up to 3 years and also later parents rarely use nannies or babysitters. This may lead to closer bonding with parents, the mother in particular, as well as greater acceptance of parents as authority figures. Therefore, it might be supposed that adolescents in Slovakia tend to perceive parental authority as legitimate and not intrusive to their needs. It is believed that these cultural aspects together with the age of early adolescents account for the differences in the present results from those which have previously been published. However, it should be noted, that there is large within-country variance in the level of individualism/collectivism (Lansford et al., 2021) and the level of individualism for each particular parent might be an interesting factor to take into account in future research.

Gender Specifics

One of the aims of the present study was to identify the gender-specific links between parental control, the parent-adolescent relationship and psychological adjustment.
For the boys, the direct and indirect associations seemed to function similarly for both maternal and paternal processes (with the exception of the negative association of paternal psychological control with the positive PAR that was not confirmed in the maternal model). For both mothers and fathers, perceived control was only indirectly associated with boys’ psychological adjustment through the perceived quality of the parent-adolescent relationship. This finding suggests that parental control may be linked to boys’ adjustment only because it improves (behavioral control) or worsens (psychological control) the quality of the parent-boy relationship which in turn increases or decreases boys’ self-esteem and life satisfaction. Although boys generally report a lower quality of the parent-adolescent relationship than girls both in the current as well as previous studies (Branje et al., 2012; van Lissa et al., 2019), it seems to play a particularly important role in their psychological adjustment.
For the girls, the associations differed for the maternal and paternal processes. The link between parental control and psychological adjustment was direct for paternal control and both direct and indirect for maternal control. The most visible indication of this was the direct association in the father-girl dyad. In previous research, a similar result was found among emerging adults when both paternal and maternal parenting styles were directly linked to emotional adjustment only among the girls (McKinney et al., 2011b). While the PAR was associated with both psychological and behavioral control in the father-daughter dyad in the current study, this did not lead to further psychological adjustment. Therefore, the opposite association might occur in this dyad. It can be assumed that in a good father-daughter relationship, fathers control their daughters more as well as their control being better interpreted and thus leading to better psychological adjustment. Adversely, the use of psychological control in poorer relationships may be stronger which is directly associated with worse psychological adjustment. Research has shown that fathers spend more time with their sons than with their daughters (Raley & Bianchi, 2006). Moreover, boys report more easy-going communication with their fathers than girls (Levin & Currie, 2010). This may help to build the positive relationship between father and son through which the effects of paternal control are manifested. On the other hand, girls might need more direct signs of their fathers’ care and interest (i.e. behavioral control) to increase their psychological adjustment.
Branje et al. (2010) found that the quality of the mother-adolescent relationship is associated with depressive symptoms for both boys and girls. Yet, it was only important for boys in the father-adolescent dyad. Similarly, Gryczkowski et al. (2010) reported fathers’ involvement to be related to the externalizing problems of boys but not girls. This supports the idea that fathers are particularly important in boy’s adjustment.
With regards to the maternal model, maternal control was associated with adjustment only indirectly through the quality of the mother-adolescent relationship (with one exception being the link between psychological control and adjustment for girls) while more direct associations were found among fathers. However, another study found the opposite to be the case (McKinney & Renk, 2011a). Their study found that fathers’ parenting was linked to outcomes more indirectly through conflict while mothers parenting was more direct. In a recent study, Van Lissa et al. (2019) looked at the role of parental support, behavioral control and psychological control in emotion regulation among adolescents and found several gender-specific associations. They found that support played a role in emotion regulation in the mother-daughter dyad but not in the mother-son dyad while perceived behavioral control was important in the father-son dyad. However, unlike the current study, it was associated negatively which also shows the possibility of age and culturally specific results.

Limitations

There are several limitations in the present study which have to be acknowledged. Firstly, because the study is not longitudinal, it does not allow us to make causal conclusions. Secondly, this study focused on parental control and parent-adolescent relationships as perceived by adolescents therefore only data from adolescents have collected. This may have introduced single informant bias which can produce artifactual covariance between the predictor and criterion variable (Podsakoff et al., 2003). This has to be taken into account when interpreting the results. On the other hand, parents tend to provide more socially desirable answers on their parenting in order to meet social and their own expectations about being a good parent, mainly in terms of underreporting negative parenting (Bornstein et al., 2015; Korelitz & Garber, 2016). Thus, parental reports on their parenting might also be biased. Indeed, research has shown that adolescents reports on parenting are stronger predictors of adolescent outcomes than parental reports (Abar et al., 2015; Maurizi et al., 2012). Therefore, adolescents reports on their parents’ parenting quality must be considered a valid and important source of information.
Secondly, the respondents in this study are early adolescents. Previous research has shown that the pubertal changes that are associated with early adolescence may directly destabilize the parent-adolescent relationship and may be the cause for temporal worsening of the relationship (Laursen & Collins, 2009). As there is a high probability that some of the respondents have already undergone pubertal changes while others have not, this information would be of interest in interpreting the results.
The present study adds to the knowledge on the gender-specific links between parental control, the parent-adolescent relationship and psychological adjustment. It was found that perceived behavioral control was positively and psychological control negatively associated with psychological adjustment for both maternal and paternal control for the boys and girls. Maternal control was associated with adolescents’ adjustment only indirectly through the quality of the mother-adolescent relationship while more direct associations were found among fathers. This was particularly the case for the father-girl dyad. The current results contradict previous findings on several points although this could be attributed to the age of the early adolescents as well as to cultural specifics of the sample.

Acknowledgements

This study was supported by The Ministry of education, science, research and sport of the Slovak republic under the contract VEGA1/0523/20 and the Slovak Research and Development Agency under the contract APVV-15-0662.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no competing interests.

Ethical approval

The study obtained Pavol Jozef Šafárik University ethic committee approval. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from parent of all individual participants included in the study.
Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://​creativecommons.​org/​licenses/​by/​4.​0/​.
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Metagegevens
Titel
Perceived Parental Control, Parent-Adolescent Relationship and Adolescents’ Psychological Adjustment. Does Gender Matter?
Auteurs
Maria Bacikova-Sleskova
Lucia Barbierik
Oľga Orosová
Publicatiedatum
03-08-2023
Uitgeverij
Springer US
Gepubliceerd in
Journal of Child and Family Studies / Uitgave 5/2024
Print ISSN: 1062-1024
Elektronisch ISSN: 1573-2843
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-023-02643-8

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