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Consequences of Parenting on Adolescent Outcomes

Donna Hancock Hoskins
Bridgewater College, 402 East College Street, Box 176, Bridgewater, VA 22812, USA
Societies 2014, 4(3), 506-531;
Submission received: 3 June 2014 / Revised: 26 August 2014 / Accepted: 5 September 2014 / Published: 18 September 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Parenting, Aggressive Behavior in Children, and Our Violent World)


In recent years, substantial gains have been made in our understanding of the influence of parenting behaviors and styles on adolescent emotional and behavioral outcomes. Empirical work focusing on the associations between parenting and adolescent outcomes is important because the influence of parenting during adolescence continues to affect behaviors into adulthood. Additionally, there has been considerable attention paid to the mechanisms that shape parenting that then influence adolescent outcomes. For instance, researchers have found that neighborhood conditions moderated the association between parenting and adolescent development. In this paper, several covariates and contextual effects associated with parenting and adolescent outcomes will be discussed. Also, parental behaviors, parental styles and adolescent outcomes are discussed in this literature review. This review provides an assessment of the literature on parenting and adolescent outcomes from the past decade and includes advancements in parenting research. The review concludes with a summary of major research findings, as well as a consideration of future directions and implications for practice and policy.

1. Introduction

Evidence suggests that family environments constitute the basic ecology where children’s behavior is manifested, learned, encouraged, and suppressed [1]. Parents’ roles in the family environment have primarily been to prepare children for adulthood through rules and discipline. During adolescence, however, the influence of peers also serves as an important socialization agent. Despite this new sphere of influence, research has clearly demonstrated that parenting accounts for more variance in externalizing behaviors in adolescence than any other one factor [2,3,4,5]. The period of adolescence can be difficult for both parents and offspring; therefore, understanding the importance of maintaining high quality parenting is particularly essential. The influence of parenting during adolescence continues to affect behaviors into adulthood; therefore, this paper will review research that focuses on the influence of parents on their adolescent offspring. Although the relationship between parent and offspring is characterized as bidirectional and interactional, this paper will focus on the impact of parenting on adolescent outcomes.
This review provides an overview of the literature on parenting and adolescent outcomes from the past decade and includes advancements and new directions in parenting research. Although most of the research included in the review is from the past decade, seminal research was included in the review to provide background information on current research studies on parenting and adolescent outcomes. Studies highlighted in the review serve as a thorough review of the literature; however, the articles reviewed in this paper are not exhaustive because the body of literature is massive and it is necessary to impose some limits on the scope of this review paper. Specifically, the review of the research literature in this paper regarding the associations between parenting factors and adolescent outcomes was limited to parental styles, parental behaviors, adolescent emotional and behavioral outcomes and covariates of and contextual effects on parenting. Specific attention was given to problem behaviors in adolescence, such as internalizing and externalizing behaviors because these are associated with long-term negative consequences across the life course. The use of the term problem behaviors refers to internalizing and externalizing behaviors to describe adolescent outcomes throughout the paper. Researchers most commonly define externalizing behaviors as aggression, deviant behavior, drug use, underage drinking, deviant peer affiliation, and opposition. Internalizing behaviors examined in past research include behaviors such as, depression, self-esteem, and fearfulness. Further, the review will also examine specific behaviors that are the components of parenting typologies. Additionally, research studies examining the mechanisms that shape parenting that then influence adolescent outcomes will also be considered. Specifically, several covariates of and contextual effects on parenting, such as racial and ethnic differences in discipline practices, family socioeconomic status, family structure, and neighborhood and community contexts will be discussed. The review concludes with a discussion of future directions for parenting research and implications.

2. Parenting Styles

In the literature, there appears to be solid evidence illustrating the influence parenting behaviors and parenting styles have on adolescent outcomes, however there are still gaps in the research. Over the past decade in the parenting literature, there has been a debate about whether researchers should use a typological approach or examine specific parenting behaviors. Parenting typologies, which capture variations in parental responsiveness and demandingness, closely reflect the interactional nature of parenting dynamics.
Originally, Baumrind’s work on parenting was based on the dimension of parental control to form three different parenting styles, which included authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive [6]. Parental control is defined as “the claims parents make on children to become integrated into the family as a whole, by their maturity demands, supervision, and disciplinary efforts and willingness to confront the child who disobeys” [7] (p. 62). High levels of demandingness can be described as structure and control. Parenting behaviors included in this dimension include parental monitoring and parental discipline practices. Building upon Baumrind’s parental style framework, Maccoby and Martin [8] added parental responsiveness as another dimension of parenting. Parenting behaviors that measure parental responsiveness include parental warmth, parental support, and parental involvement [8]. An expanded parenting typology was developed by Maccoby and Martin [8] categorizing parents as either high or low on each dimension, the new typology included the three styles previously identified by Baumrind [7] as well as an additional style: uninvolved parenting.
The two-dimensional view of parenting shown in Table 1, combines parenting behaviors (i.e., responsiveness and control) into parenting styles [8]. This typology allows researchers to examine the impact of variations of responsiveness and control. While Baumrind originally applied her typology to young children, scores of studies have used parenting styles when examining the effect of parenting on adolescents and the findings suggest that the pattern of results is similar when the focus is on adolescents.
Table 1. Parenting Typologies.
Table 1. Parenting Typologies.
High ControlLow Control
High ResponsivenessAuthoritativePermissive
Low ResponsivenessAuthoritarianUninvolved

2.1. Authoritative Parenting Style

Authoritative parents are high in responsiveness and demandingness and exhibit more supportive than harsh behaviors. Authoritative parents encourage verbal give and take, convey the reasoning behind rules, and use reason, power, and shaping to reinforce objectives. This parenting style is most often associated with positive adolescent outcomes and has been found to be the most effective and beneficial style of parenting among most families. It is well established that authoritative parenting fosters adolescents’ positive well-being [9,10,11]. Adolescents with authoritative parents are less prone to externalizing behaviors, and specifically are less likely to engage in drug use than individuals with uninvolved parents [9,10,11]. Recent findings show that positive effects of authoritative parenting are amplified when both parents engage in an authoritative parenting style [12]. Findings from this study suggest that the authoritative parenting style is associated with the lowest levels of depression and the highest levels of school commitment among adolescents [12]. This study also indicated that having at least one authoritative parent fosters better outcomes than family parenting styles that do not include an authoritative parent. In another study, adolescents whose parents are both authoritative or whose mother alone is authoritative report higher well-being, such as higher self-esteem and life-satisfaction, than participants with no authoritative parent [13]. Similarly, researchers controlled for several mother-related variables and found that having an authoritative father was associated with positive outcomes among adolescents [14]. These research findings suggest that regardless of gender of the parent, the presence of even one authoritative parent is beneficial for adolescent outcomes [14].
Interestingly, researchers found that monitoring varies among parenting styles. Researchers found that authoritative parents exhibit higher levels of parental monitoring during their child’s childhood and slight decreases across adolescence [15]. These findings suggest that authoritative parents somewhat relinquish their monitoring in response to adolescents’ increasing demands for independent decision-making.

2.2. Authoritarian Parenting Style

Authoritarian parents are low in responsiveness yet highly demanding. The authoritarian parenting style is associated with parents who emphasize obedience and conformity and expect that rules be obeyed without explanation in a less warm environment [16]. Additionally, authoritarian parents exhibit low levels of trust and engagement toward their child, discourage open communication, and engage in strict control [8]. More specifically, verbal hostility and psychological control were found to be the most detrimental of the authoritarian-distinctive, coercive power-assertive behaviors [16]. Adolescents from most Caucasian authoritarian families have been found to exhibit poor social skills, low levels of self-esteem, and high levels of depression [17]. However, the effects of this parenting style vary based on the communities in which the adolescent lives. These findings will be discussed in greater detail in the covariates of and contextual effects on parenting section.

2.3. Permissive Parenting Style

Permissive parenting is characterized by high levels of responsiveness and low levels of demandingness [16]. Permissive parents behave in an affirmative manner toward the adolescent’s impulses, desires, and actions while consulting with the adolescent about family decisions [16]. Further, permissive parents do not set rules, avoid engaging in behavioral control, and set few behavioral expectations for adolescents [16]. Interestingly, permissive parents showed steep decreases in monitoring once their children reached adolescence and these children increased their levels of externalizing behavior [15]. Adolescents from permissive families report a higher frequency of substance use, school misconduct, and are less engaged and less positively oriented to school compared to individuals from authoritative or authoritarian families [18]. Permissive parenting is also associated with low self-esteem and extrinsic motivational orientation among adolescents [19].

2.4. Uninvolved Parenting Style

Finally, uninvolved parenting style has been found to have the most negative effect on adolescent outcomes when compared to the other three parenting styles. Uninvolved parents often fail to monitor or supervise their child’s behavior and do not support or encourage their child’s self-regulation [16]. The uninvolved parenting style is described as low in responsiveness and low in demandingness. In general, these parents often show disengagement from the responsibilities of child rearing and are often seen as being uninvolved regarding the needs of their offspring [16]. Uninvolved parents do not engage in structure or control with their adolescents and often there is a lack of closeness in the parent-child dyad; therefore, adolescents of uninvolved parents often engage in more externalizing behaviors [20]. For example, researchers found an association between an uninvolved parenting style and delinquent acts ranging from vandalism and petty theft to assault and rape [20]. Further, researchers found that by grade 12, adolescents with uninvolved parents drank alcohol almost twice as much and smoked twice as much as their peers that lived in authoritative households [15]. In another study, adolescents who perceived their parents as uninvolved used more drugs compared to adolescents who perceived their parents as authoritative [21].
In addition to increased externalizing behaviors among adolescents who have uninvolved parents, findings show that participants with either an uninvolved parent or two uninvolved parents scored lower on self-esteem than participants without a uninvolved parent [13]. Similarly, in another study, the effects of uninvolved parenting were associated with higher levels of child-reported depressive symptoms during adolescence [22]. However, researchers found that having an uninvolved mother was associated with significantly worse outcomes than families with an uninvolved father [12]. Findings from this study suggest that the gender of the parent may influence the effects of uninvolved parents on adolescent outcomes. In sum, research consistently indicates that individuals whose parents are uninvolved perform most poorly in all emotional and behavioral outcomes.

3. Parenting Behaviors

Much empirical research shows that certain parenting behaviors are associated with specific adolescent internalizing and externalizing outcomes. Research indicating that parenting behaviors influence the development and maintenance of problem behaviors among adolescents will be discussed in this section. The following sections examine aspects of behavioral control, such as parental monitoring and disciplinary practices, as well as, nurturing parental behaviors such as parental warmth and parental support, inductive reasoning, and parent-child communication.

3.1. Behavioral Control

Parental behavioral control involves managing adolescent behavior and activities in an attempt to regulate their behavior and provides them with guidance for appropriate social behavior and conduct [6]. Research suggests that behavioral control can protect against problem behaviors. For example, higher levels of parental behavioral control is directly associated with less problem drinking in young adulthood among males [23], less adolescent truancy, less alcohol and marijuana use, and less frequent engagement in early sexual intercourse [24]. In addition, parental control appeared to prevent escalation in externalizing problems among adolescents who reported affiliating with deviant peers. For example, among adolescents who reported deviant peer associations, only those whose parents used low behavioral control increased in their externalizing problems [25]. Behavioral control can be demonstrated through a number of behaviors. The most common ones are monitoring, consistent discipline, and each of these will be addressed in the following section. Corporal punishment and harsh parenting, as forms of behavioral control will also be discussed.

3.1.1. Parental Monitoring

Researchers define parental monitoring as parental behaviors that regulate and provide awareness of their offsprings’ whereabouts, conduct, and companions [26,27]. Parental monitoring is important since it reduces adolescents’ externalizing outcomes. For example, studies have found that greater parental monitoring is associated with less initial adolescent involvement with alcohol and other substances, lower rates of misuse over time [28,29,30], and an increase in the age of an adolescent’s first sexual intercourse, as well as decreased sexual risk behavior [31,32,33,34,35,36,37].
During adolescence, parents’ knowledge of their children’s whereabouts and friends becomes important for reducing and preventing problem behaviors since peers become an important socializing agent. Parental monitoring efforts differ from childhood to adolescence since parents often rely on their offspring to inform them about their location and activities when away from home; therefore, effective parental monitoring relies upon effective parent-child communication. For instance, researchers suggest that the association between parental monitoring and adolescent outcomes is attributed to an adolescent’s disclosure of information rather than parents’ tracking and surveillance [38]. Interestingly, researchers have found that parental solicitation is not associated with adolescent outcomes [39]. Some researchers have suggested that parental knowledge of adolescents’ activities is an aspect of monitoring that is most closely associated with lower levels of problem behavior [40,41]. However, findings indicate that the quality of the relationship between parents and their adolescents plays a substantial role in determining how much information parents can gather about their children’s whereabouts [42,43]. Knowledge of whereabouts reflects parents’ control over outside influences such as peers [42,43]. These research findings suggest that knowledge of whereabouts could be related to less externalizing behaviors, in part, because parents are able to prevent their adolescents from “hanging out” with a risky peer group.

3.1.2. Consistent Discipline

Consistent discipline has been associated with positive outcomes among adolescents. Researchers have found that consistent discipline was associated with positive adolescent adjustment [44]. Consistent discipline also buffers adolescents against the effects of a variety of stressful and negative events. For instance, researchers found that consistent discipline buffered the effects of peer group affiliation on girls’ alcohol use, but not among boys [45]. These authors suggest that adolescents who experience high levels of consistent discipline are more resilient to peer influence because the imposition of parental norms and values discourages adolescents from subscribing to the values of their drug-use promoting peers [45]. Further, inconsistent parental disciplinary behaviors may even inadvertently reinforce adolescent’s conduct problems. Adolescents’ aggressive and noncompliant behavior is reinforced when parents engage in an inconsistent discipline practice when the parent makes a request, the adolescent responds negatively, and the parent backs down [46]. Numerous researchers found associations between higher levels of inconsistent discipline and more behavior problems. For example, inconsistent discipline, relative to more consistent discipline, has been associated with problematic psychological adjustment of adolescents, such as depression and anxiety [47] and externalizing behaviors, such as delinquent acts [32].

3.1.3. Harsh Discipline

Harsh parenting, such as threatening, yelling, or screaming in response to misbehavior, is thought to contribute to more frequent externalizing behaviors that normalize violence or aggression [48]. Studies demonstrate that harsh discipline is linked to behavior problems ranging from conduct disorder to depression and low self-esteem. For instance, researchers found that the use of harsh discipline by either parent in a two-parent household was related to greater adolescent depression and externalizing behavior [49]. Some studies have considered differences in harsh discipline based on the gender of both parents and the adolescent. For example, researchers indicate that paternal harsh discipline was more strongly related to sons’ aggression than to daughters’ aggression, whereas there was no gender differential effect with mother’s harsh parenting [50]. Other studies have focused on variables that moderate the association between harsh discipline and adolescent outcomes. These studies show that harsh discipline predicted higher levels of externalizing problems over time for adolescents reporting high antisocial peer affiliations, but not for those with few antisocial peers [51]. In other words, adolescents interactions with deviant peers tend to exacerbate rather than attenuate problems associated with negative family relations.
Although research shows that physical discipline is associated with negative adolescent outcomes, the effects of disciplinary practices vary when contextual factors or other parental behaviors are considered. Researchers have found that families living in poverty have increased use of corporal punishment, in which parents utilize physical punishment, such as hitting with a belt, pushing or grabbing, when administering discipline [52]. Researchers have also found a positive association between corporal punishment and adolescent externalizing behaviors [53]. However, the consequences of corporal punishment may depend on how often parents exhibit effective parenting, the severity of corporal punishment, [53] and the use of corporal punishment within a community [22,54]. Findings from this research will be discussed later in the section on racial differences in discipline practices.

3.2. Nurturing Parental Behaviors

Parenting behaviors such as parental warmth and support, inductive reasoning, and parent-child communication can facilitate positive adolescent adjustment. It is important to study nurturing parental behaviors since researchers have consistently found them to be associated with enhanced behavioral outcomes, as discussed below. Moreover, nurturing and involved parenting during adolescence appears to protect adolescents from the negative consequences of adversities in their lives [23]. Nurturing behaviors include parental warmth, support, the use of inductive reasoning, and communication.

3.2.1. Parental Warmth and Support

The associations between levels of parental warmth and support with adolescent behaviors have been well established in the parenting literature. Warmth is the degree to which the adolescent is loved and accepted, usually measured by items such as how often the mother or father listened carefully to their child’s point of view, and helped them with something important [8]. Higher levels of parental warmth are associated with significantly reduced alcohol use and substance use [28,55,56,57]. In a sample of Latino adolescents, researchers found that higher levels of parental warmth were positively associated with the parent-adolescent relationship and also was associated with decreased alcohol use [57]. Further, researchers found parental warmth was associated with decreases in externalizing behaviors and increases in self-esteem over time [58]. Overall, findings suggest that higher levels of parental warmth are positively associated with adolescent outcomes. Interestingly, the influence of parental warmth on adolescent outcomes does not seem to differ across ethnic groups, therefore suggesting that parental warmth is an effective parenting behavior among ethnically diverse samples.
Parental support is defined as the presence of close, caring, and accepting relationships between an adolescent and his or her caregivers [55]. Research has consistently shown that higher levels of perceived parental support are associated with lower levels of adolescent delinquency, aggression, or other adjustment problems [28,55,59,60]. Researchers have also found that parental support during adolescence predicted lower levels of depressive symptoms and irritability among young adults [31,61,62]. Researchers have examined how supportive parental behavior influences adolescent outcomes in high-risk community contexts. For example, one research study suggests that supportive parental behaviors buffer adolescents from the negative effects of high-risk community contexts [63]. Overall, these studies underscore the importance of parental support on the well-being of adolescents, since it functions as a protective factor when examining various adolescent outcomes.

3.2.2. Inductive Reasoning

Inductive reasoning is a form of nurturing parenting whereby parents clarify expectations, identify problems and possible consequences, supply explanations, and provide rationales by eliciting ideas from adolescents rather than disciplining them in a coercive manner [64]. Further, inductive reasoning is an essential parenting practice that provides adolescents with important knowledge and fosters their ability to evaluate situations they may experience in life. With this approach, the adolescent is more likely to internalize the reasons for rules and apply them in situations and environments outside of the home; this process allows adolescents to learn from the rules set by parents and why different rules are set [64].
Parents report a tendency to increase their level of inductive reasoning when their adolescent violated a moral compared to a conventional principle and in response to deliberate versus accidental behavior [64]. Results from this study suggest that more problematic adolescent behavior, such as defiant behavior, motivates parents to increase their effortful parenting to prevent it from reoccurring. Researchers have also examined the effect of parents’ use of inductive reasoning on adolescents’ depressive symptoms. Findings suggest that parents who do not practice inductive reasoning may facilitate the development of an adolescent’s sense of uncertainty and frustration, which may lead to depressive symptoms [65]. Further, researchers found a significant interaction between disorderly neighborhoods, which refers to conditions and activities in a neighborhood that are perceived as social and physical disorder, and parents’ use of inductive reasoning [66]. Findings from this study indicate that parental use of inductive reasoning was a protective factor for depressive symptoms particularly for adolescents living in disorderly neighborhoods [66].

3.2.3. Parent-Child Communication

Parent-child communication is defined as how often in the past year adolescents communicated with their parents about a variety of topics, such as drugs and alcohol, sex and/or birth control, and personal problems or concerns [67,68]. Highly religious parents have been found to be more likely to demonstrate effective parenting practices, such as communication [69,70]. High quality parent-adolescent communication is important to study because it is associated with positive adolescent outcomes [71]; therefore, establishing an environment that promotes productive parent-child communication is important because it can serve as a protective factor for adolescent problem behavior. For instance, adolescents who talked to their mothers about a problem behavior were engaged in lower levels of risk behaviors, such as substance use [23,67,68], had a lower frequency of sexual intercourse (among females only), and more consistent contraceptive use [72]. Research shows that sex is one of the most salient topics for adolescents to discuss with their parents. However, the results from one study indicate that parents provide more discussions of sex with their daughters than their sons [69]. Overall, research has established that a supportive environment where parent-child communication is valued and practiced is associated with adolescents who are successful during adolescence.

4. Covariates of and Contextual Effects on Parenting

In the past decade, researchers increasingly recognized the importance of contextual influences in relation to parenting and adolescent outcomes. Much of the research has focused on White middle-class families, but in the past decade research has increasingly focused on variations in parenting by racial/ethnic differences, family structure, socioeconomic status, and neighborhood. Research indicates that the associations between parenting behaviors and adolescent outcomes can be contextually specific rather than universal, since parenting practices respond to immediate contextual demands.

4.1. Racial and Ethnic Differences in Discipline Practices

In recent years, the empirical literature has increasingly taken into account the racial differences in discipline practices across ethnic minority groups. Research has shown much variability on the effects of highly restrictive parenting and behavioral control on adolescent outcomes across racial and ethnic groups. Research has compared parenting practices across ethnic groups and found that authoritarian parenting is associated with more negative behavioral outcomes among Caucasian adolescents when compared to adolescents across other racial and ethnic groups [73]. Despite the negative effects of authoritarian parenting among some adolescents, especially among Caucasians, studies indicate that authoritarian parenting style has less of a negative effect for some ethnic minority adolescents. For example, research indicates that parents adapt their parenting styles to match the localized settings of their lives [74]. Researchers have found that high levels of control has been linked to positive outcomes for minority adolescents that live in high-risk environments because they are more likely to interpret parents’ strict discipline as more necessary and acceptable than do adolescents in low-risk communities [75]. For example, among Hispanics, some research has found that these parenting practices have neutral effects on adolescent outcomes since high control was considered normative and a valued socialization mechanism [76]. Further, higher levels of parental control among African Americans and other ethnic groups in high- risk environments may be interpreted as parents caring or protecting their child from potentially harmful environments. For example, researchers have found that strict parenting practices are used among some African American families living in high-risk neighborhoods to ensure a child’s safety [77]; therefore, researchers suggest that ethnic minority adolescents living in high-risk environments may not be as harmed by higher levels of control as are those who grow up in low-risk environments [77,78,79]. For instance, researchers have found that African American youth in high-risk neighborhoods often are engaged in less deviant behavior when parents engage in authoritarian parenting [79]. Research indicates that parenting strategies that use high levels of parental control, such as physical restraint and physical punishment, and affectionate behaviors are termed “no-nonsense” parenting [79]. In a sample of African American adolescents, researchers found that no-nonsense parenting behaviors were often interpreted positively by ethnic minority adolescents, since they often prepare the adolescent to cope with factors related to their minority status and their community context, such as prejudice or discrimination and high risk environments [80]. Similarly, among Asians, researchers have found that strict and controlling parenting practices are valued, and child obedience is emphasized. These parenting behaviors are characterized as authoritarian and are associated with close involvement with the adolescent, devotion and willingness to make sacrifices for the child’s well-being, and family-based control that is seen by both Asian adolescents and parents as important [81,82]. Using an Asian American sample, researchers found that the authoritarian parenting style is associated with enhanced adjustment and academic performance among adolescents when compared to authoritative parenting practices [83]. In another study that used a sample of Taiwanese mothers, researchers found that corporal punishment showed no association with conduct problems when mothers were high on warmth/control, whereas there was a positive relationship between the two variables when mothers’ warmth/control was low [84].
While Maccoby and Martin [8] suggest that levels of control are similar for authoritative and authoritarian parenting styles and different on levels of warmth, it is important to recognize that there is a difference in terms of control. While both parenting styles place considerable emphasis on control, the manner in which they exert control and enact their behavioral standards are very different. Research suggests that differences in parental control are associated with different adolescent outcomes depending on if parental control is punitive or if it is control that includes monitoring or setting limits for the adolescent. Past research suggests that there are differences in the association of parenting styles and adolescent outcomes among ethnic groups. Specifically, research suggests that some ethnic groups are not as negatively impacted by parental control when compared to white adolescents.

4.2. Family Socioeconomic Status (SES)

There is considerable evidence that suggests that socioeconomic status is a strong predictor of parenting. Research suggests that economic status affects parents’ psychological functioning, which then affects their parenting behaviors and adolescent’s socioemotional functioning [85]. Parental disciplinary styles and parenting practices vary among families of different socioeconomic backgrounds [85]. For instance, Conger and colleagues [85] found that economic pressure was indirectly related to poor parenting through high maternal and paternal depressed mood, and also found that poor parenting was related to adolescent externalizing behavior. Research suggests that lower SES fathers are more restrictive and punitive with their children [73], engage in higher levels of harsh punishment, and exhibit a parent-centered style or authoritarian style [86]. Further, researchers have found that lower SES fathers show less involvement than higher SES [87]. In contrast, researchers have found lower-socioeconomic mothers were more controlling, restrictive, and disapproving than higher-socioeconomic mothers [18].
It is important to note, however, that parenting practices among higher SES families have also been associated with negative adolescent outcomes when overindulgent parenting occurs. Overindulgent parents inundate their adolescent with family resources such as material wealth and experiences at developmentally inappropriate times [88]. For instance, researchers found that individuals who self-identified as overindulged children reported experiencing negative effects (e.g., not having emotional needs met) as a result of the indulgence, not only while it was occurring, but into adulthood [88].

4.3. Neighborhood and Community Contexts

Several neighborhood and community influences have been found to be important when considering parenting behaviors and adolescent outcomes. Neighborhood characteristics, such as safety and levels of violence or crime, have a direct effect on developmental outcomes for adolescents. For instance, greater exposure to community violence is associated with more symptoms of depression [89]. These findings suggest that the detrimental effects of exposure to community violence are present for some adolescents living in high-risk neighborhoods. Research has found that the effectiveness of parenting practices varies by neighborhood conditions and community contexts. For instance, Simons and colleagues [22] considered community context and found that the deterrent effect of caretaker control on conduct problems becomes smaller as deviant behavior becomes more widespread within a community. These findings indicate that environmental stressors may reduce the positive effects of authoritative parenting. As mentioned before, other research findings indicate that there is a significant interaction between neighborhood disorder and primary caregivers’ inductive reasoning. Specifically, children living in highly disordered neighborhoods were more likely to report fewer depressive symptoms if their parents had engaged in discipline using inductive reasoning [68]. Taken together, these findings suggest that parents rearing adolescents in high-risk neighborhoods may need to engage in more controlling parenting behaviors or styles based upon the norms of the community to keep their adolescent safe.
During the past decade, a number of studies have also focused on more process-oriented neighborhood level constructs that influence families, such as community social organization and collective efficacy. Components of community social organization include social capital, formal and informal networks, and community capacity building [90]. These authors define community capacity as the degree to which people in the community demonstrate a sense of shared responsibility for the general welfare of the community and its individual members, as well as demonstrate collective competence by taking advantage of opportunity for addressing community needs and confronting situations that threaten the safety and well-being of community members [90]. These social ties and interactions within communities can often positively influence community problems, including problem behaviors among adolescents. For example, Mancini and colleagues [90] suggest that social organization is essential in communities, since members provide mutual support and interrelate to help reduce the occurrence of adolescent problem behaviors within a community. Similarly, other studies have examined collective efficacy, which is described as the level of active engagement by neighborhood adults in the support and supervision of adolescents and the linkage of mutual trust and shared willingness to intervene for the public good [91]. Findings from one study indicate that adolescent deviant behavior will remain low to the extent that adults in the community take responsibility for monitoring and correcting the adolescents living in the area [92]. For example, adults who intervene when adolescents are acting inappropriately in a neighborhood have some level of collective efficacy. Collective efficacy within a community has been found to protect against problem behaviors among adolescents associated with permissive parenting [93]. Researchers have found that high levels of collective efficacy increased the quality of parenting within a community, since adults in these communities exerted pressures on other parents of delinquent adolescents to become more responsible caretakers [94]. These findings suggest that supportive social dynamics within a community has positive effects on adolescent development.
Although adolescents in high-risk neighborhoods often have more exposure to and opportunities to engage in deviant behaviors, findings indicate that neighborhood social capital buffers adolescents from the negative consequences of permissive and uninvolved parenting. Findings from studies that examine neighborhood social processes indicate that neighborhood social cohesion and collective efficacy moderate the association between parenting behaviors, such as monitoring and/or responsiveness, and adolescent behavior problems [22,95,96].

4.4. Family Structure

Research has shown that adolescents in married, biological two-parent families generally fare better than children in single-mother, cohabiting stepfather, and married stepfather families. Data suggest that family structure serves as a risk factor for adolescents, since adolescents from divorced or single-parent families are two to three times more likely to display problem behaviors [75]. In contrast, researchers have examined factors that contribute to adolescent enhanced adjustment among intact families. Adolescents in two biological parent households are more likely to have greater socioeconomic resources, as well as greater investments of parental time, attention, and support [97]. Some researchers report that within intact families, mothers communicated more positively and supported their adolescents more than did single mothers, suggesting that having two parents in a household enhances the quality of parent-adolescent relationships [73]. Further, Booth and colleagues [98] found that children do better on average in two-biological-parent families because a greater proportion of them enjoy close ties to their fathers. In this section, research on nonresidential fathers, single-parent, step-families, cohabiting, same-sex, and grandparent family structures will be discussed.

4.4.1. Nonresidential Fathers

Researchers have found that involved fathers have children who engage in less risky behaviors [99]. However, these researchers found that adolescents who were close to their nonresident father reported higher self-esteem, less delinquency, and fewer depressive symptoms than adolescents who lived with a father with whom they were not close [99]. Similarly, other researchers have found that active involvement of a nonresident father was associated with generally positive outcomes among adolescents [100]. Nonresidential fathers’ active involvement, such as helping with homework, talking about problems, and setting limits contributed to positive adolescent outcomes [101]. Other dimensions of the father-child relationship, which included feelings of closeness and authoritative parenting were found to be positively associated with adolescent’s academic success and negatively associated with adolescents’ externalizing and internalizing problems [101]. These findings suggest that nonresidential fathers can positively influence adolescent outcomes when they are involved in their adolescent’s life regardless of the living arrangement. However, nonresidential fathers were found to be significantly less involved in parenting than fathers who live at home [102].

4.4.2. Single-Parent Families

Research indicates that growing up with a single parent is often associated with a number of adolescent behavioral problems. Adolescents in single-parent families might have more opportunities to engage in high risk behaviors since there may be only one parent to provide supervision. For example, levels of monitoring in single parent families have been examined and this research indicates that single-parent families monitor their adolescents less when compared to two-biological-parent families [103]. Research findings indicate that adolescents from single-parent families engage in the highest rates of problem behaviors when compared to other family structures [104]. In other studies, researchers examined adolescent sexual activity and teen pregnancy and found that girls who experienced an absent father by or before age five had the highest rates of early sexual activity and teen pregnancy [105]. Similarly, Moore [106] found that adolescents living with single parents tend to initiate sex earlier than those living with both biological parents. These findings suggest that the presence of both parents in children’s lives appears to be associated with a delay in sexual activity and less problem behavior.

4.4.3. Step-Families

Demographic trends indicate a rise in the number of step-families within the United States [107]. Researchers have compared parenting behaviors and adolescent outcomes in step-families and intact families and found lower well-being among adolescents in step-families. For instance, adolescents living in step-families report higher levels of internalizing and externalizing behaviors, poorer academic achievement, and lower social competence than their counterparts who were living with two married biological parents [97,108]. However, living with a step-parent rather than with a single mother was more often associated with relatively poorer well-being with respect to emotional outcomes, but better well-being with respect to some behavioral outcomes [109]. To explain these differences in adolescent outcomes, levels of parental monitoring and involvement have been examined. Adolescents in single parent families may have less involved parents than do adolescents who live with both biological parents. However, research indicates that mothers provide similar levels of parenting regardless of family structure [110]. In general, findings indicate step-fathers do not serve as effective caretakers of non-biological children; however, Simons and colleagues [111] suggest that when mothers have help and support from a secondary caregiver, adolescent outcomes are more positive.
While very high levels of monitoring were especially helpful within intact families, some researchers have found that very high levels of monitoring were found to be harmful in step-families where less trust and closeness between step-fathers and adolescents may lead to monitoring being viewed by adolescents as intrusive and interfering [44]. In general, there are several findings indicating that step-fathers do less monitoring. For example, researchers suggest that step-parents can sometimes lack parental legitimacy in the eyes of step-children [111]; therefore, step-children are more likely to resist the parenting efforts of step-fathers because they do not consider them to be legitimate parental figures. Further, research has shown that step-fathers, on average, are less involved and communicative with their stepchildren, provide less warmth and nurturance, and hold a less positive view of their relationships with their step-children than birth fathers who live with their children [112]. In general, these findings suggest that adolescents do best when there are two biological caregivers in the household.

4.4.4. Cohabiting Parents

Numerous studies have found that children in cohabitating families fare worse than children living with two married, biological parents. As a result of this instability, adolescents of cohabiting parents are more likely to experience higher levels of instability than children born to married parents [113]. Adolescents living in cohabiting families exhibit more behavioral problems than among those living with married parents [114]. Research indicates that cohabiting step-father figures provide limited benefit when contrasted with single-mother families where no father figure was present [114]. These findings suggest that neither parental cohabitation nor marriage to a partner or spouse who is not related to the adolescent (step-family formation) is associated with uniform advantage in terms of behavioral or academic indicators to adolescents living in single-mother families.

4.4.5. Same-Sex Parents

A series of studies has also explored how adolescents parented by same-sex couples differ from adolescents from heterosexual parents. Researchers have found no notable differences between adolescents who have heterosexual or same-sex parents. Research indicates that same-sex parents tend to be as competent and effective as heterosexual parents [115]. Researchers found that the quality of family relationships rather than the gender of parents’ partners were consistently related to adolescent outcomes [116]. Although more research is needed, these findings suggest that sexual orientation of those serving in the parental role does not influence adolescent outcomes.

4.4.6. Grandparent as Primary Caregivers

Over the years there have been a growing number of adolescents who spend their lives with grandparents. Grandparents often serve as a positive influence in the lives of their grandchildren by taking on various roles such as caregiver, playmate, advisor, and friend [117]. Research indicates that grandparent-grandchild relations are associated with positive adolescent outcomes. For instance, one study found that greater grandparent involvement is associated with fewer emotional problems and more positive outcomes among adolescents [118]. In these findings, grandparent involvement was more strongly associated with reduced adjustment difficulties among adolescents from single-parent and step-families. Ruiz and Silverstein [119] found that close and supportive relationships with grandparents reduced depressive symptoms especially among young people whose families of origin were absent a parent. Simons and colleagues [110] found that adolescent problem behaviors were no greater in either mother-grandmother or mother relative families than in those in intact nuclear families; therefore, this study suggests that grandparents can serve as an effective substitute when a father is not present. Overall, research findings indicate that there are positive associations between grandparent-grandchild relations and adolescent outcomes.

5. Conclusions

The influence of parenting on adolescent outcomes has been well established in the literature. One purpose of this review was to focus on the substantial gains that have been made in our understanding of the influence of parenting styles and behaviors on adolescent behavioral outcomes. Also in this review, new directions in research on parenting and adolescent behavioral outcomes were highlighted. Another aim of the review was to highlight research on the covariates of and contextual effects on parenting, such as racial and ethnic differences in discipline practices, family socioeconomic status, family structure, and neighborhood and community contexts. In this section, a summary of major research findings related to the consequences of parenting on adolescent outcomes, future directions for parenting research, and implications for practice and policy will be discussed.

6. Summary of Major Research Findings

Much of the study of parenting has focused on parenting styles and behaviors in relation to adolescent outcomes. Over the past decade in the parenting literature, there has been a debate about whether researchers should use a typological approach or examine specific parenting behaviors. Parenting typologies, which capture variations in parental responsiveness and demandingness, more closely reflect the interactional nature of parenting dynamics. Although the examination of specific parenting behaviors allows researchers to move away from global constructs, parental influences on adolescent behavior are multifaceted and may not be fully understood when isolating and focusing on a single dimension. Future research needs to examine parenting behaviors in relation to a parenting style typology, since parenting behaviors may have very different effects on adolescent outcomes when levels of both responsiveness and control are considered.
The vast majority of research has found the authoritative parenting style to be a consistent predictor of positive adolescent outcomes. Although the research overwhelmingly indicates that parenting behaviors, such as parental warmth and control are associated with positive adolescent outcomes, studies using ethnically diverse samples have found variations in the relationship between parenting style and adolescent outcomes. Research suggests parenting styles characterized by very high levels of control are not always associated with negative outcomes for adolescents. For instance, African American youth in disadvantaged neighborhoods often are engaged in less deviant behavior when they are exposed to no-nonsense parenting (higher levels of parenting control). This is an indicator of the importance of such contextual factors as socioeconomic status and family structure that should be taken into account and given further consideration when examining the effects of contextual factors on parenting styles and behaviors on adolescent outcomes. To strengthen parenting style research findings, future research needs to continue to consider the perspective of not only the adolescent or one parent, but also examine paternal and maternal reports. Most studies in the past decade investigating parenting styles have mainly focused on the parenting style of only one parent. Although parenting research for the most part has focused on mothers, a few studies examining paternal and maternal parenting styles have emerged in the past decade [12]. This gap in the literature indicates that future consideration needs to be given to collecting and examining data from fathers and mothers of adolescents to avoid the assumption that maternal parenting behaviors are applicable to paternal parenting behaviors.
The vast majority of studies covered in this review have found associations between parental monitoring and adolescent outcomes [28,29,30]. A number of important methodological challenges confront researchers studying parental monitoring even though there is a considerable amount of evidence on parental monitoring and adolescent outcomes. For instance, parental monitoring levels are often assessed using reports from mothers only, potentially biasing results from the study. Also, adolescents’ perceptions of parental monitoring are important in controlling adolescents’ behaviors [71]. To address these issues, researchers suggest that the effects of parental monitoring on adolescent outcomes should be assessed using reports of monitoring from both parents and the adolescent [12]. The use of multiple reporters in research studies would allow researchers to explore parental differences, as well as parent and adolescent perspectives rather than ignore or collapse responses across respondents [120].
Research also suggests that parenting style and parental discipline behaviors affect adolescents differently based on cultural values among different ethnic groups within different types of communities. As mentioned earlier, authoritarian parenting practices in ethnic minority groups often have fewer negative effects on adolescent outcomes since it is considered normative and a valued socialization mechanism [76]. For instance, researchers found that the effect of parental control and corporal punishment depends on the community context [22]. Interestingly, researchers found support for an evaporation hypothesis since the deterrent effect of caretaker control on conduct problems decreases (i.e., evaporates) as deviant behavior became more widespread in the community [22]. In this study, researchers considered cultural differences in definitions of normative parenting and found a substantial positive relation between corporal punishment and conduct problems in communities where the use of corporal punishment was rare [75]. Findings from this study suggest that parents’ effectiveness in reducing externalizing behaviors of their adolescent is influenced by parental motivations for using physical discipline. Taken together, these findings suggest that the association between parental discipline and adolescent behaviors is a culturally influenced process that varies by community and neighborhood contexts.
There has been considerable attention paid to the mechanisms that shape parenting that then influence adolescent outcomes. As this review indicates, in addition to contextual factors, cultural influences on parenting and adolescent outcomes also need further consideration. The accumulation of evidence suggests that traditional conceptualization of parenting styles cannot be generalized across all ethnic groups since motivations for parenting behaviors are culturally influenced. Since much of the research on parenting is based on samples of Caucasian middle class families, much work remains to be done that focuses on ethnically diverse samples. To adequately understand cultural differences in parenting, researchers need to gain a more-in-depth understanding of how cultural meanings of specific ethnic groups influence parenting behaviors/styles and adolescent outcomes. Additionally, research could be conducted to find within-group ethnic differences in parenting behaviors and between various ethnic groups, thus, constructs used to assess parenting need to be highly culturally relevant.
Over the past decade, research has documented the effects of parenting behaviors on adolescent outcomes while considering contextual influences, which is arguably one of the most important advances in the parenting literature. It is evident that after reviewing the evidence, scholarly interest in the contextual and cultural influences on parenting and adolescent outcomes has flourished during the past decade. For instance, additional literature has revealed the importance of examining the influences of contextual level factors on parenting behaviors when determining adolescent outcomes. Researchers have found differences in the effects of parenting on adolescent outcomes when considering several contextual factors. Research indicates that parents adapt their parenting style to match the localized settings of their life [74]. Research indicates that parenting research has been expanded in the past decade, but we still know relatively little about how contextual factors contribute to differences in parenting across various ethnic groups. Future studies need to consider contextual factors when examining parenting and adolescent outcomes. Therefore, future studies should use more advanced methodological methods, such as multilevel modeling, to develop a better understanding of how community and individual level factors influence parenting and adolescent outcomes. Researchers have found that neighborhood conditions moderated the association between parenting and adolescent development. Taken together, these findings suggest that parents rearing adolescents in high risk neighborhoods may need to engage in more controlling parenting behaviors or styles based upon the norms of the community to keep their adolescent safe.
It is evident from the literature reviewed future research should include the examination of contextual factors with genetic factors. One of the innovations in research on the consequences of parenting on adolescent outcomes during the past decade has been the focus on gene by environment (GxE) interactions. Relatively few research studies have examined the possible interactions of genes and environments. In a review on families of children and adolescents, Crosnoe and Cavanagh [121] claimed that incorporating genetics into family process research can further support family researchers who argue that parenting is developmentally significant. The majority of GxE studies help to explain why some individuals are more susceptible to environmental influences, such as parental behaviors. Some researchers have examined the role of genetics in trajectories of externalizing behavior across development while considering parental monitoring. These findings suggest that the association of a specific gene (i.e., GABRA2) with externalizing trajectories diminished with high levels of parental monitoring [122]. In the next decade, researchers need to consider both genetic and environmental influences when examining the consequences of parenting on adolescent outcomes.
As indicated in the review, research on family structure has also been expanded. In the past decade, a notable shift in the literature has been towards paying greater attention to understanding how differences in family structure lead to differences in adolescent outcomes. For example, researchers have examined the effect of the father-child relationship on adolescent outcomes. As noted earlier, researchers have found that involved fathers have adolescents who engage in less antisocial behavior [99]. Since much of the literature on family structure has focused on linking fathering to adolescent outcomes among families with the birthfather and birthmother residing together, additional research is needed that focuses on how different family structures influence adolescent outcomes. Further, the lack of research on nonresidential fathers suggests that future studies should consider factors that facilitate or serve as barriers to nonresidential father involvement, as well as specific dimensions of parenting behaviors that contribute to adolescent development. Further, advancement in the literature has been made in the areas of nonresidential father and adolescent outcomes, although greater attention needs to be given to other dimensions of the father-child relationship. Research on family structure diversity is needed to capture how family processes among various family structures, such as single parent, same-sex parent, and grandparent headed families, influence adolescent outcomes from different racial/ethnic backgrounds. In general, research findings highlighted in the review suggest that adolescents do best when there are two biological caregivers in the household; however, some research suggests that mother’s parenting behaviors do not vary based on family structure. Although more research is needed, these findings suggest that gender of those serving in the parental role does not influence adolescent outcomes.

7. Implications

Based on research findings focused on the effects of parenting on adolescent outcomes, researchers have developed family-based prevention intervention programs for parents and adolescents. These programs are designed to inform parents and adolescents on how to develop skills that strengthen family relationships. For instance, based upon the results from a research study on adolescent fathers’ engagement with their children, researchers suggest that programs for fathers that enhance parenting skills may offset the costly barriers to maintaining an active and healthy relationship with their child [123]. Although the study focused solely on enhancing parenting, other research has focused on other factors within the family that protect adolescents from high risk behaviors [79]. Given that contextual factors influence the effect of parenting behaviors on adolescent outcomes, prevention intervention programming may need to focus on parents, adolescents, and the community context. Research highlighted in the review suggests that both parents, as well as the community context can influence adolescent outcomes. This suggests a policy emphasis on community-based parenting support. Policy agenda for the future should also place a strong emphasis on prevention intervention education specific to contextual effects that influence parenting and adolescent outcomes. Addressing limitations in the current literature will allow for an enhanced understanding of parenting and adolescent outcomes and also allow for more effective prevention intervention efforts directed toward promoting effective parenting, especially among parents of adolescents. Taken together, this review article sheds light on the linkages between parenting and adolescent outcomes. Evidence strongly suggests that parents play a key role in adolescent outcomes.

Conflicts of Interest

The author declares no conflict of interest.


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Hoskins, D.H. Consequences of Parenting on Adolescent Outcomes. Societies 2014, 4, 506-531.

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Hoskins DH. Consequences of Parenting on Adolescent Outcomes. Societies. 2014; 4(3):506-531.

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Hoskins, Donna Hancock. 2014. "Consequences of Parenting on Adolescent Outcomes" Societies 4, no. 3: 506-531.

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