Beyond the tender years : a longitudinal study of parents' relationships with adolescents in nondivorced, divorced, and remarried families

Hollier, Evelyn Ann , Department of Psychology, University of Virginia
Hetherington, E. Mavis, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia
McArdle, John J., Department of Psychology, University of Virginia

This study examines the impact of nonnormative and normative life changes on parenting behavior. It focuses on the impact of divorce, remarriage, and stepparenthood on parents' relationships with children who are themselves negotiating the transition into adolescence.

Two hundred and two white middle class families participated, including nondivorced families, stabilized mother-headed divorced families, and families with a newly remarried custodial mother and a residential stepfather. Remarried families were interviewed 4 months, 16 months and 26 months post-remarriage with the other families interviewed at comparable intervals. Families had a target child averaging 11 1/2 years old at the initial interview.

Parenting dimensions examined include warmth, control, monitoring, conflict, and discipline. Parenting self reports, spouse reports and target child reports are drawn from structured interview questionnaires. Observer ratings of videotaped structured and unstructured family interactions are also assessed.

When clustered, four parenting types with distinctive profiles across the five dimensions emerged: Authoritative, authoritarian, disengaged, and permissive, however permissiveness emerged only for mothers and is believed to be merging with disengagement as children grow order.

Repeated measures analysis of parenting dimensions and of parenting style reveal:

1> Parenting relationships become less active as children grow older and move further into adolescence.
2> Nondivorced families show the most consistently favorable parenting. Both mothers and fathers are predominantly authoritative, a parenting style associated with optimal outcomes for children. However, a very large proportion of nonauthoritative parents are disengaged.
3> Mothers in stabilized divorced families are as likely to be authoritative as are mothers in nondivorced homes however those who become nonauthoritative are very vulnerable to authoritarianism. Relationships with sons show less authoritarianism over time while relationships with daughters show much more as girls move further into adolescence.
4> Following remarriage, mothers show a period of diminished parenting followed by recovery within two years, a pattern similar to that found following divorce. Relationships with daughters become highly authoritarian and are most disrupted immediately following remarriage. In contrast, mothers withdraw from sons with disengagement peaking 16 months after remarriage.
5> Stepfathers are the least involved and most inept of all parents, with many enduring differences from both their wives as well as from fathers in nondivorced families. Stepfathers of boys are particularly likely to show extremes of disengagement and even rejection, and are singularly unlikely to be authoritative parents.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
adolescents, divorced families, non-divorced families, parent adolescent relationships, step-parent adolescent relationships
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