Who shapes whom in the family: reciprocal links between autonomy support in the family and parents' and adolescents' coping behaviors

J Youth Adolesc. 2011 Aug;40(8):983-95. doi: 10.1007/s10964-010-9603-9. Epub 2010 Nov 25.


Coping research has neglected the study of the reciprocal links between parents' and adolescents' coping behaviors and the potential influence of parental support for the development of adolescent autonomy. This study, therefore, analyzed the coping behaviors of fathers, mothers, and children (53% females) in 196 families who participated in a four-year longitudinal study that started when the child was an early adolescent. The results of cross-lagged panel design models examining direct links between parents' and their children's coping styles suggested that parents and children do not affect each others' abilities to cope with family stress over time. However, indirect relationships between parents' and children's coping styles via autonomy support in the family were found. Both the parents' and adolescents' perceptions of autonomy support in the family were important in shaping their respective coping styles. The child's individual characteristics (e.g., gender and physical maturity) had a greater influence on the fine-tuning of mothers' coping behaviors than on the fathers'. The findings underscore the significance of autonomy-enhancing parent-child interactions for the development of adolescent coping.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Development*
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Personal Autonomy*
  • Sex Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires