Parent-Teen Relationships and Interactions

Kristin Moore
December 1, 2004

Parent-Teen Relationships and Interactions:
Far More Positive Than Not
By Kristin A. Moore, Ph.D., Lina Guzman, Ph.D., Elizabeth Hair, Ph.D., Laura Lippman, and Sarah Garrett
December 2004
Overview Everyone recognizes that babies and young children need and love their parents.
But what about teens? Even an adolescent’s own parents can despair and wonder how their
loving child has apparently become so rejecting. But “apparently” is a crucial word.
Research indicates that not only does parenting continue to be important for adolescents, but also
that most adolescents themselves continue to report positive relationships and interactions with
their parents.
This Research Brief brings together recent results of a nationally representative survey of U.S. teens
about the nature of their relationships with their parents and findings from rigorous research studies
on the parent-adolescent bond. The evidence presented shows that while the proportion of teens
reporting positive relationships with their parents does dip somewhat during the early teen years and
while this proportion is lower for parents who live apart from their children, adolescents, in general,
respect, admire, and like their parents and enjoy spending time with them. These results from interviews
with teens dovetail with research showing the link between the quality of parent-child relationships
and a wide range of positive outcomes for teens. Moreover, this research is reinforced by similar
findings in industrialized countries elsewhere in the world, which we also report on in this brief.
Publication # 2004-25 4301 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 100, Washington, DC 20008
Phone 202-572-6000 Fax 202-362-5533 www.childtrends.org
RESEARCH BRIEF
© 2004 Child Trends
TEEN PERSPECTIVES
Data from interviews conducted as part of the
National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1997
cohort (NLSY97),1 allow us to provide a national
picture of what adolescents between the ages of
12 and 18 report as they move through their adolescent
years. Each year between 1997 and 2001,
adolescents who were between the ages of 12 and
14 in 1997 (and who were approximately 16-to-
18 at the time of the 2001 interview) were asked
whether they agreed or disagreed with several
statements about their mother and their father:
“I think highly of him/her”;
“She/He is a person I want to be like”; and
“I really enjoy spending time with him/her.”
Results from the adolescents’ responses about
their residential parents (i.e., those who lived
with, not apart from, their children) in 1999
when they were between the ages of 14 and 17
are shown in Figures 1 and 2. Results about
mothers show that:
¦ More than four in five adolescents (84
percent) agreed or strongly agreed that they
think highly of their mother;
¦ More than one-half (57 percent) agreed or
strongly agreed that they wanted to be like
their mother2; and
¦ More than three-quarters (79 percent)
reported that they really enjoy spending time
with their mother.
Similar proportions were reported about residential
fathers, namely:
¦ More than four in five adolescents (81
percent) agreed or strongly agreed that they
think highly of their father;
¦ Slightly under two-thirds (61 percent) agreed
or strongly agreed that they wanted to be like
their father; and
¦ More than three-quarters (76 percent)
reported that they really enjoy spending time
with their father.


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