Loosening the reins or tightening them? Complex relationships between parenting, effortful control, and adolescent psychopathology

Jenny Houtepen*, Jelle Sijtsema, Theo Klimstra, R. van der Lem, Stefan Bogaerts

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Background
Adolescents face major developmental tasks such as increasing individuation and establishing autonomy. These developmental tasks increase demands on adolescent self-control, hereby putting youth with poor effortful control at risk for psychopathology. Specific parenting behaviors might be warranted to buffer against this risk.

Objective
This study was designed to examine parenting-related risk and protective factors in the associations between effortful control and adolescent psychopathology. We hypothesized that youth with poor effortful control require more parental involvement (i.e., lower autonomy granting) to help complete these developmental tasks and subsequently avoid psychopathology.

Methods
Via adolescent self-reports (N = 809), associations between effortful control, perceived parenting (i.e., psychological control and autonomy support), and externalizing (i.e., interpersonal aggression and rule-breaking) and internalizing problems (i.e., depressive and anxiety problems) were examined.

Results
Regression analyses supported our hypothesis in boys: higher levels of autonomy support exacerbated the negative association between effortful control and rule-breaking. In contrast, in girls this was the case for lower levels of autonomy support. For both genders, low autonomy support and psychological control exacerbated negative associations between effortful control and internalizing problems. No buffering effects of parenting were found.

Conclusions
Low effortful control is associated with psychopathology in adolescents, but parenting can affect this association in several ways, depending on the type of psychopathology and the adolescent’s gender. Future research should focus on finding ‘optimal’ levels of parental control that can help avoid psychopathological problems in youth with poor effortful control.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-145
JournalChild & Youth Care Forum
Volume48
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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Keywords

  • ADJUSTMENT
  • ANTECEDENTS
  • ANTISOCIAL-BEHAVIOR
  • ANXIETY
  • Adolescent psychopathology
  • Autonomy support
  • EMOTIONAL AUTONOMY
  • EXTERNALIZING PROBLEMS
  • Effortful control
  • Externalizing and internalizing problems
  • MODERATORS
  • PSYCHOLOGICAL CONTROL
  • Parenting
  • Psychological control
  • SUSCEPTIBILITY
  • TEMPERAMENT

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