Sunday, May 29, 2022

Closeness with fathers has a positive impact across kid’s adolescence

Father-child relations may play a special role in how kids weather adolescence.

A new study by the Penn State scientists aimed to determine father-adolescent engagement and relationship quality found that good father-child relations can help stave off specific adjustment problems at critical points during adolescence.

Scientists examined how parental intimacy (emotionally close and supportive relationships with parents) affects children at different points across adolescence. Compared to mom, closeness with dad seems to have a positive impact for both daughters and sons, found scientists.

But while close relationships with mothers also had benefits, they were more limited by their children’s age and weren’t protective against all the adjustment issues measured in the study for both girls and boys.

Anna Hochgraf, the doctoral candidate in human development and family studies, said, “The findings suggest that while close relationships with moms are certainly important, fathers may play an important, distinct role in fostering healthy adjustment in adolescents.”

“Adolescents tend to feel emotionally closer to their mothers than to their fathers, and mothers tend to have supportive conversations with their children more frequently than fathers do. This may make emotional closeness with fathers more salient and, in turn, protective against these common adjustment problems experienced during adolescence.”

Adolescence is a unique stage of human development and an important time for laying the foundations for life goals. It includes many biological, cognitive, emotional, and social changes that can lead to specific adjustment issues, with weight concerns, low self-esteem, and symptoms of depression being some of the most common.

According to a past study, close relations with parents could protect against t the development of some of these problems. Scientists, in this study, wanted to explore the topic further, breaking the results down by participants’ age, gender, and relationship with each parent.

Hochgraf said, “We wanted to investigate when during adolescence intimacy with mothers and fathers becomes a protective factor for body image concerns, depressive symptoms, and low self-esteem, and whether intimacy is more strongly associated with positive adjustment at some ages than at others. We also wanted to see if patterns differed for girls and boys.”

Scientists recruited 388 adolescents from 202 two-parent families with both fathers and mothers for the study. Data were gathered at three checkpoints when the participants were between the ages of 12 and 20 and included information on participants’ weight concerns, symptoms of depression, and self-esteem, as well as measurements of intimacy between parents and their kids.

Scientists then measure parental intimacy via a questionnaire to which the adolescents responded with a score ranging from one to five.

Hochgraf said, “it was important to gather data at several points in time because problems with adjustment, as well as relationships with parents, can change and develop swiftly throughout adolescence.”

“Rather than assume that the associations between parent-adolescent intimacy and adolescent adjustment problems are static across adolescence, we studied changes in these links as a function of age. This approach enabled us to determine at which ages parent-youth intimacy may be most protective against body image concerns, depressive symptoms, and self-esteem.”

Time-varying effect models revealed that associations between intimacy and adjustment problems were dynamic and differed by parent and youth gender and across adjustment problems.

They also found that father-youth intimacy was associated with fewer weight concerns for both girls and boys throughout most of adolescence, with the greatest effects in mid-adolescence for girls and late adolescence for boys. In contrast, mother-youth intimacy was only associated with fewer weight concerns for boys and early adolescence.

Hochgraf said, “For example, while father-adolescent intimacy was associated with fewer depressive symptoms across adolescence, mother-adolescent intimacy was associated with fewer depressive symptoms during mid-adolescence, around age 15.”

They also found that father-youth intimacy was associated with fewer weight concerns for both girls and boys throughout most of adolescence, with the greatest effects in mid-adolescence for girls and late adolescence for boys. In contrast, mother-youth intimacy was only associated with fewer weight concerns for boys and early adolescence.

Also, closeness with the father was associated with higher self-esteem from early through mid-adolescence for both boys and girls. Closeness with mother was associated with higher self-esteem across most adolescent girls and during early and late adolescence for boys.

Hochgraf said“The study underscores the importance of parents being close, open and supportive with their children.”

“Parents can promote their adolescents’ healthy development by fostering emotionally warm, accepting, and supportive relationships with them. There are several evidence-based, family-centered prevention programs that can help parents improve or maintain positive relationship quality and communication with their children throughout adolescence and that have been shown to prevent multiple adolescent adjustment problems.”

Journal Reference:
  1. Hochgraf, A. K., Fosco, G. M. et al. Developmental timing of parent–youth intimacy as a protective factor for adolescent adjustment problems. DOI: 10.1037/fam0000864
EXPLORE MORE

New Inventions

TRENDING