The relationship of parental control to youth adjustment: do youths' feelings about their parents play a role?

J Youth Adolesc. 2010 Dec;39(12):1442-56. doi: 10.1007/s10964-009-9479-8. Epub 2009 Nov 25.


Recent research suggests that youths interpret parental control and that this may have implications for how control affects youths' adjustment. In this study, we propose that youths' feelings about being over-controlled by parents and feeling connected to parents are intermediary processes linking parental control and youths' adjustment. We used three years of longitudinal data sampled from 1,022 Swedish youths in 7th, 8th, and 9th grade (47.3% girls; 12-17 years old, M age = 14.28 years, SD = .98) who were mainly Swedish in ethnic origin. We tested models linking parental control (i.e., rules, restriction of freedom, and coldness-rejection) to adjustment (i.e., norm-breaking, depressive symptoms, and self-esteem) through youths feeling over-controlled by and connected to parents. The overall model incorporating youths' feelings showed that restrictions and coldness-rejection were both indirectly linked to increases in norm-breaking and depressive symptoms through increases in youths feeling over-controlled. Parental rules still independently predicted decreases in norm-breaking and in self-esteem, and coldness-rejection predicted increases in norm-breaking. In addition, some paths (e.g., feeling over-controlled to self-esteem) depended on the youths' age, whereas others depended on their gender. These results suggest that when youths' feelings are taken into account, all behavioral control is not the same, and the line between behavioral control and psychological control is blurred. We conclude that it is important to consider youths' feelings of being controlled and suggest that future research focus more on exploring this idea.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / diagnosis
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / psychology
  • Authoritarianism
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / diagnosis
  • Child Behavior Disorders / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Judgment*
  • Male
  • Models, Psychological
  • Object Attachment
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Parenting / psychology*
  • Psychology, Adolescent*
  • Rejection, Psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Concept
  • Self Disclosure*
  • Social Values