Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Communication with Parents

Despite growing independence during adolescence, family relationships still play an important role in socialisation and support, and continue to function as a strong determinant of adolescents’ health and well-being (1, 2). The time spent with parents drops from early to late adolescence but parents continue to play a key role in adolescents’ development. This role may be even more important than in the early stage, but may change and become less visible (3).

Open communication with parents and parents’ support are important factors for successful development of mental and physical health in young people. A strong association has been found between parental support and improved level of mental health, emotional well-being and reduced levels of health risk behaviors (4).  Adolescents who feel connected to their families and whose parents are highly knowledgeable about their child’s activities are more likely to delay sexual initiation, have lower incidence of sexual risk behaviour and teenage pregnancy, report lower levels of cigarette, alcohol and marijuana use,  and are less likely to engage in  violence and other problem behaviour (5,6,7,8,9,10,11). In countries & communities where stronger family ties are present, adolescents have fewer behavioural and mental health problems, particularly young women (12).Parental communication functions as a protective health asset supporting to maintain high life satisfaction and positive body image through to late adolescence (13).

There are age and gender differences in how easy young people find it talking to mothers and fathers respectively: generally, both boys and girls report it to be easier talking to mothers than fathers, and younger adolescents find communication easier than do older ones (See figures 1 and 2 below).

Results from HBSC England 2009/10 (14) indicated that young people who reported having high quality of parental communication also have less health complaints like headaches and stomach aches, higher life satisfaction,  and rate their overall health as higher than those young people who reported having poorer quality parental communication. Overall parental communication functions as a protective health asset supporting to maintain high life satisfaction and health related quality of life.

Drawing on a qualitative project linked to the HBSC study, interesting insights have been found regarding young peoples’ expectations and attitudes towards parental communications. Although seeking independence, the desire and need for support and positive communication with their parents remained strong. Against commonly accepted views that during adolescence young people value peer relationship more and spend less time with their parents, it appears that family communication and parental communication are still very important and necessary for young teenagers of both genders. It appears though that at this stage, young people are seeking equal partners in parents and wish to have communication based on trust.

  1. Levin, K. A., & Currie, C. (2010). Family structure, mother-child communication, father child communication, and adolescent life satisfaction. A cross-sectional multilevel analysis. Health Education, 110, 152-168. 
  2. Velleman, R. D., Templeton, L. J., & Copello A. G. (2005). The role of the family in preventing and intervening with substance use and misuse: A comprehensive review of family interventions, with a focus on young people. Drug and Alcohol Review, 24, 93-109. 
  3. Moretti, M.(2004) Adolescent-parent attachment: Bonds that support healthy development Paediatr.  Child Health. Oct 2004; 9(8): 551–555.
  4. Moreno C, Sánchez-Queija I, Muñoz-Tinoco V, Gaspar de Matos M, Dallago L, ter Bogt T, Camacho I, Rivera F and the HBSC Peer Culture Focus Group (2009) Cross-national associations between parent and peer communication and psychological complaints. International Journal of Public Health, 54, S235-242.
  5.  Resnick, M.D., Bearman P.S., Blum, R.W. (1997) Protecting adolescents from harm. The Journal of American Medical Association, 278:823–32.
  6. Borowsky, I.W., Ireland, M., Resnick, M.D. (2002)Violence risk and protective factors among youth held back in school. Ambulatory Paediatrics, 2: 475–84.
  7.  Fletcher AC, Steinberg L, Williams-Wheeler M. (2004) Parental influence on adolescent problem behaviour: revisiting Stattin and Kerr. Child Dev 2004; 75: 781–96.
  8. Bonnie R. J., O’connell M.E., eds.(2004) Reducing underage drinking: a collective responsibility. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press;
  9.  Crosby, R.A., DiClemente, R.J., Wingood, G.M., Lang, D.L., Harrington, K. (2003) Infrequent parental monitoring predicts sexually transmitted infections among low-income African American female adolescents. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med,157: 169–73;.
  10.  Barber, B.K., Stolz, H.E., Olsen, J.A. (2005)Parental support, psychological control, and behavioural control: assessing relevance across time, culture, and method, Monogr Soc Res Child Dev 2005; 70: 1–137.
  11.   Sethi, D., Hughes, K., Bellis, M., Mitis, F., Racioppi, F.(2010) European report on preventing knife crime and violence among young people, Copenhagen: World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe.
  12. Viner, R. M., Ozer, E.M., Denny,S. et al.(2012)Adolescence and the social determinants of health, The  Lancet, 379 (9826), 16411652.
  13. Fenton C, Brooks F, Spencer NH, Morgan A (2009) Sustaining a positive body image in adolescence: an assets-based analysis. Health and Social Care in the Community, 18, 189-198.
  14.  Brooks F, Magnusson J, Klemera E, Spencer N & Morgan A (2011) HBSC England National Report. Findings from the 2010 HBSC study for England. Hatfield: University of Hertfordshire.

 Ellen Klemera