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Research finds parents of teenagers are "Doing a good job"

10 August 2009

Results of a research review undertaken by Professor Barbara Maughan of the Institute of Psychiatry and colleagues from the Universities of Oxford, Cardiff and Cambridge entitled 'Time trends in parenting and outcomes for young people' has recently been published by the Nuffield Foundation.

The paper looked into parenting over the past 25 years and found no evidence of a general decline in parenting. The researchers found that parents of teenagers are doing a good job, and poor parenting is not the reason for the increase in problem behaviour amongst teenagers despite parenting changing and getting increasingly stressful, particularly for some groups.

Some indicators show that parents and teenagers are choosing to spend more quality time together than 25 years ago.   Today’s parents are also more likely to know where their teenage children are and what they are doing than their 1980s equivalents.

In the 80’s more teenagers from single parent families would be out without their parent’s knowledge, whereas today single and two parent families are equally less likely to know their children’s whereabouts.

The trends in parenting over the last 25 years, showing increases in time spent together, supervision and monitoring, led researchers to conclude there was no link between overall standards of parenting and the increase in youth problem behaviour.

However, today’s parents face a different set of challenges compared to 25 years ago.  Young people now are reliant on their parents for longer, with higher proportions of 20-24 year olds living with their parents.  Many more remain in some kind of education or training into their late teens.  In addition, the development of new technology, such as mobile phones and the Internet, has created new monitoring challenges for parents.  It is also possible that parents are increasing monitoring as a reaction to a perceived increase in the risks their children are exposed to.

Today, parents of teenagers are increasingly likely to report symptoms of depression and anxiety themselves, particularly one-parent families and those on low incomes.

'Despite public concern about declining family life, the research funded by the Nuffield Foundation has found no evidence of a decline in parenting over recent decades. To the contrary, most parents of teenagers seem to be doing a good job' said Dr Ann Hagell, Head of the Nuffield Foundation’s Changing Adolescence Programme and author of the briefing paper, Time trends in parenting and outcomes for young people.

Further information:

The briefing paper also draws on a Nuffield Foundation New Career Development Fellowship awarded to Dr Stephan Collishaw, and two earlier Foundation awards on time trends in mental health awarded to Professor Barbara Maughan and colleagues

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