Study finds association between parental autonomy support, controlling parenting in development of children's behaviour

Study finds association between parental autonomy support, controlling parenting in development of children's behaviour
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Kyoto, Japan: The interaction between teenagers and their parents has long been a fascinating topic in psychological study. Numerous studies emphasise the importance of parental conduct in the development of children. Parental autonomy support, in particular, has been identified as critical for teenage growth and good functioning.

The two most crucial aspects of parenting are parental autonomy support and regulating parenting. The former refers to parents encouraging their children's freedom by listening intently, providing options, considering perspectives, and providing logical explanations for certain acts. Controlling parenting, on the other hand, refers to parental actions that drive children to do things they would not willingly do, such as demanding compliance and conformity, using incentives as a tool to control, imposing one's own agenda on the children, and giving them less options.

These parenting behaviors can either decrease or increase the risk for mental illnesses, respectively, in adolescence. Similarly, the two behaviors can positively or negatively influence adolescents' satisfaction of basic psychological needs, respectively. Satisfaction of basic psychological needs increases adolescents' life satisfaction and their enhances mental wellness. Whereas, a lack of satisfaction could lead to diminished vitality, loss of volition, fragmentation of personality, and ill-being. However, most studies on parental autonomy support and controlling parenting depend primarily on children's perceptions of parenting behaviours, ignoring the fact that parents and children can have different perceptions. And very few studies have explored the impact of these perceptions on adolescents' basic psychological needs satisfaction.

Consequently, researchers in Japan, led by Prof. Ayumi Tanaka from Doshisha University's Faculty of Psychology, investigated the similarity between the perceptions of adolescents and their mothers on parental autonomy support and controlling parenting. They also examined the possible association of these perceptions with adolescents' depressive symptoms (mental health) by using basic psychological needs satisfaction as a mediator. "It is necessary to understand the relative impact of parents' and adolescents' perceptions of autonomy support and controlling parenting on basic psychological needs satisfaction. This understanding could explain the importance of parenting in the adolescent developmental process" explains Prof. Tanaka. This study, which was published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence on 19 January 2023, is part of a larger research project--"The examination of risk factor for amotivation in the classroom."

Prof. Tanaka and her team recruited 408 pairs of mothers and adolescent from Japan who completed a questionnaire at two time points, four months apart (October 2019 and February-March 2020). They gauged the perceptions of adolescents and mothers regarding mothers' autonomy support and controlling parenting using the 24-item Perceived Parental Autonomy Support Scale (P-PASS). Then they collected data on adolescents' level of basic psychological needs satisfaction via the Japanese version of the Basic Psychological Need Satisfaction and Frustration Scale. They also collated adolescents' level of depressive symptoms using a version of the Depression Self-Rating Scale for Children.

Statistical analysis of the mother-adolescent responses revealed that there is low to moderate agreement between mothers' and adolescents' perceptions of parenting. The researchers also found that mothers' reported autonomy support, but not adolescents' perceptions, positively predicted adolescents' basic psychological needs satisfactions. However, adolescent-reported basic psychological needs satisfaction was found to negatively predict depressive symptoms.

These results show that adolescents may perceive parenting differently than their mothers, which could be a result of differing points of view. However, despite these differences, both perceptions can independently predict depressive behavior in adolescents based on basic psychological needs satisfaction. Furthermore, regardless of adolescents' perceptions, maternal autonomy support might be beneficial; and regardless of mothers' report, adolescents' perceived controlling parenting is damaging for adolescents' mental health.

Envisioning the possible impact of this research, Prof. Tanaka says, "With these findings, mothers and other people around adolescents can understand the nature of support that adolescents seek. Support for healthy life for adolescents, the creators of the future, is important for every society in the world. We hope that our research can help vitalize the society in both the short- and long-terms by guiding parenting behavior to enhance mental health and well-being of adolescents."