Research Reveals – Chapter One

RR1.1: Adolescent Well-Being Is Strongly Related to the Quality of the Parent-Child Relationship
In 2002, Child Trends looked at 1,100 research articles to identify what promotes positive adolescent development. They found that the parent-child relationship is strongly related to adolescent well-being. Here were their four key factors:

  1. Relationships – Teens who have warm, involved, and satisfying relationships with their parents are more likely to do well in school, be academically motivated and engaged, have better social skills, and have lower rates of risky behaviour than their peers.
  2. Modelling – Teens whose parents demonstrate positive behaviour on a number of fronts are more likely to engage in those behaviours themselves.
  3. Monitoring / Awareness – Parents who know about their children’s activities, friends, and behaviour and monitor them in age-appropriate ways have teens with lower rates of risky physical and sexual behaviour.
  4. Approach to Parenting – Teens whose parents are supportive and caring, but who also consistently monitor and enforce family rules are more likely to be motivated and successful at school, as well as psychologically and physically healthy. In contrast, adolescents whose parents are overly strict and do not give them any independence are more likely to engage in risky behaviour. Similarly when parents are warm but permissive, adolescents tend to be impulsive and engage in more risky behaviour.[i]

RR 1.2: Unhealthy Parenting Promotes Mental Illness
A group of researchers looked at 593 families and their children from two counties in the state of New York in 1975, 1983, 1985 to 1986, and 1991 to 1993, made up of parents with and without mental illness. Their aim was to examine the association between parents’ mental health, unhealthy parenting behaviour, and off-spring mental health. One of their findings was that the children who developed mental illness (depression, anxiety disorder, substance abuse, personality disorder, ADHD, panic disorder, social phobia, OCD, antisocial personality disorder and PTSD) did so primarily because of unhealthy parenting, not because of their parents’ mental illness. Thus, the higher the level of unhealthy parenting, the higher the frequency of mental illness in their children.[ii] Most parents would probably assume that mental illness passes down genetically, but that is not always the case. Dr. Charles Whitfield highlighted this and many similar studies, done primarily since the 1980s, asserting that the devastation of unhealthy parenting has only surfaced by way of empirical evidence as time moves on.[iii]

[i] Moore, K. A., & Zaff, J. F. (2002, November). Building a better teenager: A summary of “what works” in adolescent development, research brief. Child Trends, 1–5.

[ii] Johnson, J. G., Cohen, P., Kasen, S., Smailes, E., & Brook, J. S. (2001). The association of maladaptive parental behavior with psychiatric disorder among parents and their offspring. Archives of General Psychiatry, 58, 453–460.

[iii] Whitfield, C. L. (2004). The truth about mental illness: Choices for healing. FL: Health Communications, Inc. 4–7, 253; Whitfield, C. L. (2001). Not crazy: You may not be mentally ill. Pennington: Muse House Press.