Getting Grownups and Kids on the Same Page

When teens believe parents' reactions fit the circumstances, things go better, study finds

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THURSDAY, Aug. 10 , 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Parents' yelling, talking or handing out punishments may not have much impact on teens if the kids don't believe their parents' reactions suit the situation, according to a new study.

The study of 122 teens used hypothetical situations to explore what teens think about the appropriateness of their parent's reactions to the teens' behaviors. Yelling, punishment, or discussing a problem is not that important to teens, the study said. What does matter is whether teens believe their parents' reactions fit the circumstances.

And, not surprisingly, researchers at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, also found that teens and parents can have very different views about a situation.

"If children feel they are being treated inappropriately, the negative emotion accompanying the interaction may cloud the children's ability to understand and accept what the parents are actually trying to get across," study senior author Laura Padilla-Walker, assistant professor of marriage, family and human development at the university, said in a prepared statement.

Parents and teens generally have the same views on moral issues, such as lying or stealing. However, a parent-teen gap appears in areas of social behavior, such as table manners or being home by curfew. Teens felt that parents often overreacted in these situations.

"For example, there are clear societal guidelines regarding honesty, so adolescents may not perceive as great an injustice in being reprimanded for lying as they would for breaking curfew, which is an arbitrary sanction that may vary greatly from one family to another," the study authors wrote.

The findings were published in the August issue of the journal Social Development.

More information

The Nemours Foundation offers tips on effective parenting.

SOURCE: Brigham Young University, news release, Aug. 1, 2006

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