Teenagers with strict parents 'struggle in later life', study says

Rob Waugh
Contributor
Parents who are overbearing or controlling can damage children's futures (Getty)

Teenagers with strict parents have always felt sorry for themselves, but a study suggests that controlling parents might actually be doing their children harm.

Researchers at the University of Virginia found that overbearing behaviour by parents was associated with children having difficulties in relationships and education as adults.

By the time they’re 32, those with strict, overbearing parents were less likely to be in relationships, and likely to have lower educational achievements, the researchers said.

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Dr Emily Loeb, of the University of Virginia, said: “Parents, educators and clinicians should be aware of how parents’ attempts to control teens may actually stunt their progress.

“This style of parenting likely creates more than a temporary setback for adolescent development because it interferes with the key task of developing autonomy at a critical period.”

The damage caused by such parenting is “not easy to repair”, the researchers said.

The study was published in the journal Child Development.

It focused on psychological control, where parents, for instance, withdraw love and affection while angry at children, or make children feel guilty for upsetting them.

The study found that having overbearing and over-controlling parents at age 13 was associated with less supportive romantic relationships for those who had a partner by age 27.

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Teens with overbearing parents also faced a lower likelihood of being in a relationship, and lower educational attainment, by 32.

The researchers believe that this stems from the youngsters experiencing problems between the ages of 15 and 16, when they are less mature and well-liked by peers.

Researchers followed 184 young people annually from ages 13 to 32, one half male and one half female, and from a wide variety of socioeconomic backgrounds.

They asked the participants to fill out questionnaires about themselves and their parents.

In adulthood, the volunteers were asked to fill out forms about their relationship status and level of education.

They also collected information from each youth’s peers about how well liked the teen was in school, and they observed videos of each youth interacting with his or her closest friend and, later in adulthood, interacting with his or her romantic partner.

Co-author Professor Joseph Allen said: “Even though parents routinely attempt to guide their children toward successful adaptation, over-controlling parenting in adolescence has the potential to impede development in a fundamental way that's not easy to repair.”

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