After family quarrels, who do teens turn to?

by Elaine Bible

(Medical Xpress) -- When a teenager has an argument with their father, who do they seek out to talk through the situation? Do they turn to mom or dad? Associate Professor of Psychology Jeff Cookston explored this question in his latest study.

Associate Professor of Psychology Jeff Cookston"We found that the more warm and available parents are to their children, the more likely their kids are to talk to them about a conflict," said Cookston, whose study focused on how young people cope with conflicts with their fathers.

Conflict in families has been linked to anxiety, distress and behavioral problems in young people. Cookston is interested in how confiding in others helps children make sense of disagreements in the family and ultimately how those conversations shape children's emotions, well-being and behavior.

"If you talk things through with someone rather than sitting on your feelings, maybe conflict, in and of itself, isn't that bad," he said.

Cookston and his colleagues surveyed almost 400 families and asked parents and children about their relationship, their and how much time they spend together. Half of the families were of Mexican descent and half were European Americans.

"What was interesting is that the same pattern of support-seeking held up regardless of and regardless of whether children were in a family with a stepdad or a ," Cookston said.

Parental acceptance was a key affecting whether a chooses to seek out either parent for advice and support after a . Cookston says this acceptance includes , telling your kids you are proud of them, and accepting them for who they are.

For fathers, specifically, kids were more likely to discuss a conflict with him if they already had an established pattern of confiding in their dad.

"As a parent, if you want to be sought out when the going gets tough, you have to have spent time cultivating that kind of relationship," Cookston said.

The results also found that the quality of the parents' marriage impacts who children turn to. "If mom and dad aren't on the same page, a child is less likely to talk to mom about a conflict with dad."

This latest study is part of Cookston's ongoing research at the Family Interaction Research Lab at SF State. It was published in March in the journal New Directions in Child and Adolescent Development and is online available at onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cd.20005/abstract

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Empty nest syndrome may not be bad after all, study finds

Feb 21, 2008

One day they are crawling, the next day they are driving and then suddenly they aren’t kids anymore. As children reach adulthood, the parent-child relationship changes as parents learn to adapt to newly independent children. ...

Parents' conflicts affect adopted infants' sleep

Aug 02, 2011

When parents fight, infants are likely to lose sleep, researchers report. "We know that marital problems have an impact on child functioning, and we know that sleep is a big problem for parents," said Jenae M. Neiderhiser, ...

When Mom Dates, Dad Stops Visiting His Kids

Aug 03, 2009

New research from the Journal of Marriage and Family shows that children born outside of marriage are less likely to be visited by their father when the mother is involved in a new romantic relationship. Many children born out ...

Recommended for you

Offenders turn to mental health services 

1 hour ago

Adult criminal offenders in Western Australian are eight times more likely than non-offenders to use community-based mental health services in the year before their first sentence, a UWA study has found.

Deliberation is staunchest ally of selfishness

1 hour ago

(Medical Xpress)—Over the last two years, Yale psychologist David Rand and colleagues have investigated what makes people willing to help each other. Their latest research shows that while initial reactions ...

Touch influences how infants learn language

3 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—Tickling a baby's toes may be cute but it's also possible that those touches could help babies learn the words in their language. Research from Purdue University shows that a caregiver's ...

User comments