Friday, February 15, 2008

Teen-parent conflict

New York magazine's article "Learning to Lie has an interesting idea about teen-parent conflict: teens will lie when they think that their parent will not agree to a change in rules, but choose not to lie when they think that they might have a chance of changing their parent's mind. Adolescents in families where the parents were authoritative (rather than authoritarian or permissive) were more likely to raise these objections. The arguments which come out of these attempts to change the parents mind are viewed by adolescents as constructive:

Forty-six percent of the mothers rated their arguments as being destructive to their relationships with their teens. Being challenged was stressful, chaotic, and (in their perception) disrespectful. The more frequently they fought, and the more intense the fights were, the more the mother rated the fighting as harmful. But only 23 percent of the adolescents felt that their arguments were destructive. Far more believed that fighting strengthened their relationship with their mothers.

The discrepancy is large --- parents are twice as likely to be disturbed by these arguments than teens --- but still most mothers think that these arguments are not actually bad for their relationship with their teen. The discrepancy doesn't sound quite as bad if you say 54% of mothers and 77% of teens didn't think these arguments were destructive for their relationship. Perhaps stories of parent-teen conflict just sell better.