• By Dartington SRU
  • Posted on Friday 28th August, 2009

In Spain it’s worth a parent’s pain

Researchers at Seville University have confirmed that the quality of the relationship teenagers have with their families can help to prevent them falling prey to aggression or antisocial behavior. The team of psychologists, who followed the progress of a group of over 100 15- and 16-year-olds from the Andalusian capital for over two years, found that relationships characterized by cohesion, communication, affection and considerate monitoring were most likely to stop adolescents behaving badly in response to stress. Children who experienced only a moderately good relationship with their family were liable to react badly. Those enduring the worst family relationships responded more negatively still. Solidness of the family ties had no effect on teenagers’ levels of anxiety and depression, however. The authors suggest that by the mid-teens other factors, peer group influence for example, are more dominant.They conclude that despite pressures to allow Spanish teenagers greater autonomy, parents should not relinquish their involvement and should continue to offer support. Parents who struggle should be offered training.Previous research has highlighted the increasing importance of peer influence during the teenage years and has tended to downplay the role played by parents, the Spanish authors say. But cultural differences must be acknowledged: most of the studies have come out of the US and Northern Europe where there is a more individualistic orientation, and the autonomy of young people is highly valued. Spain, they suggest, is to a greater extent collectivist; families play an important role and reciprocal emotional links continue into adulthood. More comparative research is needed to illuminate these and other contextual differences. Research in this area frequently makes general observations on all these lines. The Seville study is unusual because in reaching albeit familiar conclusions it used standardized instruments to assess parenting style, family adaptability and cohesion and communication.See: Oliva A, Jimenez J and Parra A (2009), “Protective effect of supportive family relationships and the influence of stressful life events on adolescent adjustment,” Anxiety, Stress & Coping, 22,2, pp.137-152

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