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Developing autonomy is often said to be a major source of stress for adolescents and their parents. A recent study suggests that parental behaviors regarding their adolescent’s autonomy are more efficient when adapted to each adolescent’s reaction to stress. A group of American researchers visited 100 families from the northeastern United States with adolescents between 14 and 16 years old. They visited the families twice to measure two types of parenting behavior that either undermines adolescent autonomy or promotes adolescent autonomy. They then measured adolescents’ sensitivity to stress and their aggressive and confrontational behaviors.

The researchers showed that, for adolescents showing a higher sensitivity to stress, parenting behaviors that undermine their autonomy were associated with a higher frequency of adolescent aggressive or confrontational behaviors. These same parenting behaviors had no negative impact on adolescents with a normative response to stress. Another interesting result from this study indicates that those adolescents with a higher sensitivity to stress also benefited the most from parenting behaviors that promoted adolescent autonomy. These parenting behaviors had the effect of reducing the frequency of adolescents’ aggressive or confrontational behavior.

These results suggest important differences on how adolescents react to the challenges of their social development. Parenting behaviors undermining or promoting adolescent autonomy has distinctive effects according to each adolescent’s sensitivity to stress, some being more sensitive to stress than others.

Link to the study :

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2018.02.049

Link to the parents behavior undermining or promoting adolescent autonomy :

http://supp.apa.org/psycarticles/supplemental/a0036557/VIO-Niolon20120307-RRR-F1.docx

Link to adolescent development at WHO :

http://www.who.int/maternal_child_adolescent/topics/adolescence/dev/fr/