Parental monitoring of adolescent free time : a theoretical model of parent-adolescent interactions

Hayes, L 2004, Parental monitoring of adolescent free time : a theoretical model of parent-adolescent interactions, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Health Sciences, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Parental monitoring of adolescent free time : a theoretical model of parent-adolescent interactions
Author(s) Hayes, L
Year 2004
Abstract Parental monitoring is a widely researched hypothetical construct. Patterson and colleagues (Capaldi & Patterson, 1989; Patterson, Reid, & Dishion, 1992) originally developed the construct in their seminal work with the Oregon Youth Study. Adopting a broad theoretical framework, monitoring was defined as parental awareness of adolescent activities, and communication to the child that the parent is concerned about and aware of adolescent free-time (Dishion & McMahon, 1998). Recent research (Kerr & Stattin, 2000; Kerr, Stattin, & Trost, 1999; Stattin & Kerr, 2000) has proposed a narrower definition, where monitoring is perceived to be parental knowledge of adolescent free-time, which is acquired primarily through adolescent disclosure of their activities. Recent debates have been present in the literature proposing either the multidimensional view of monitoring, or the latter uni-dimensional view.

A model of monitoring interactions was developed that is based on social learning and behavioural principles. The process-monitoring model contends that monitoring is an interactive process between parents, their adolescents, and the ecology of the family. In the model it is proposed that monitoring occurs in discrete episodes that change over the course of adolescent development. To explain monitoring interactions, it is essential to consider the sequence of behaviours that occur within a monitoring interaction at two stages, before the adolescent goes out, and also when they return home. Using the process-monitoring model as a framework, this research examined monitoring across four studies.

Study 1 was a qualitative study that explored adolescent perceptions of monitoring interactions. Forty-nine adolescents aged from 12 through to 16 years (M = 13.2) were interviewed about their monitoring interactions with parents. This study found correspondence between the constructs in the process-monitoring model and adolescent perceptions of monitoring interactions. Two new themes that emerged in this study were parental trust and adolescent deceit. For typically developing adolescents there were marked differences in how adolescents perceive parental monitoring across adolescent development.

Study 2 involved the analysis of data collected as part of a population based self-report survey of 1285 adolescents aged 14 to 15 years. The hypothesised relationship between monitoring behaviours was examined using structured equation modelling. A model with the constructs of rules, supervision, conflict, and adolescent problem behaviour was found to be an adequate fit of the data, accounting for 40% of the variance in problem behaviour. Specifically, lax rules predicted poor supervision and high conflict. High conflict and low supervision were predictors of the adolescent problem behaviour construct, which encompassed conduct problems, rebelliousness, and sensation seeking. Adequate rules appear to form the foundation for better supervision and less conflict, and hence, lower levels of adolescent problem behaviours.

Study 3 involved data collected for the purpose of further testing the process monitoring model. The associations between parent-adolescent relationship quality, rules, solicitation, disclosure, and tracking were tested using linear path modelling on self-report data from a sample of 210 parents and 202 adolescents aged 11 to 18 years (M = 15.29). Separate statistical models were required for the parent and adolescent data. For the adolescent data the model was an adequate fit, accounting for 27% of the 3 variance in tracking behaviours. In the adolescent model, high rule-setting predicted higher solicitation and tracking, while poor relationship quality predicted lower disclosure and lower tracking. For the parent data, the model was an adequate fit accounting for 34% of the variance in tracking behaviours. In the parent model, high rule-setting predicted higher solicitation, disclosure, and tracking, while poor relationship quality predicted lower disclosure, lower solicitation, and poorer tracking scores. The tracking construct was found to adequately predict adolescent deviant behaviours including alcohol use, smoking, and deviant peer associations.

Study 4 was an exploratory study. In this study the monitoring scale constructed in Study 3 was examined alongside behavioural observations made whilst conducting an intervention with two families who were experiencing parent-adolescent conflict. Some correspondence was found between parent and adolescent measures of monitoring and conflict and the behaviour seen between parent-adolescent dyads; however, the self-report monitoring measures were only able to reveal substantial problems in monitoring. Problem Solving and Communication Training (Robin & Foster, 1989) showed some improvement in parent-adolescent relationships, as measured by the Issues Checklist (Robin & Foster, 1989) and Conflict Behaviour Questionnaire (Prinz, Foster, Kent, & O'Leary, 1979), but there was no impact on monitoring interactions.

This series of studies supported the claims that monitoring is a multidimensional construct, and that it has bi-directional effects. There was support for the existing research, which has shown that poor parental monitoring is consistently associated with adolescent problem behaviour. The process model was found to provide an adequate framework for examining the temporal sequence in monitoring interactions and the evolution of monitoring across the adolescent developmental cycle. 4 At this stage there is little experimental or intervention research showing how families might improve their monitoring. It is argued that behavioural observations and functional analyses of monitoring episodes are needed to provide an understanding of the action-reaction sequence across monitoring episodes.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Health Sciences
Keyword(s) Parental monitoring
Adolescent Adjustment
Parent-adolescent relationship
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