Purpose: To compare two different parenting practices (parental monitoring and negotiated unsupervised time) and perceived parental trust in the reporting of health risk behaviors among adolescents.
Methods: Data were derived from 692 adolescents in 9th and 10th grades (x = 15.7 years) enrolled in health education classes in six urban high schools. Students completed a self-administered paper-based survey that assessed adolescents' perceptions of the degree to which their parents monitor their whereabouts, are permitted to negotiate unsupervised time with their friends and trust them to make decisions. Using gender-specific multivariate logistic regression analyses, we examined the relative importance of parental monitoring, negotiated unsupervised time with peers, and parental trust in predicting reported sexual activity, sex-related protective actions (e.g., condom use, carrying protection) and substance use (alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana).
Results: For males and females, increased negotiated unsupervised time was strongly associated with increased risk behavior (e.g., sexual activity, alcohol and marijuana use) but also sex-related protective actions. In males, high parental monitoring was associated with less alcohol use and consistent condom use. Parental monitoring had no affect on female behavior. Perceived parental trust served as a protective factor against sexual activity, tobacco, and marijuana use in females, and alcohol use in males.
Conclusions: Although monitoring is an important practice for parents of older adolescents, managing their behavior through negotiation of unsupervised time may have mixed results leading to increased experimentation with sexuality and substances, but perhaps in a more responsible way. Trust established between an adolescent female and her parents continues to be a strong deterrent for risky behaviors but appears to have little effect on behaviors of adolescent males.