Unfortunately, teens often pick up on the negative elements in a relationship, such as conflict and antagonism, and then copy these attitudes into their own relationships.
The new study investigated a previously understudied association — how a parent’s friendships influence the emotional well-being of their adolescent children.
For the study, doctoral student Gary Glick and Amanda Rose, Ph.D., studied the development of friendships and other peer relationships during adolescence and their impact on psychological adjustment.
They found that adolescents may mimic the negative characteristics of their mothers’ relationships in their own peer-to-peer friendships suggesting that mothers can serve as role models for their adolescents during formative years.
“Mothers who display high levels of conflict with friends may signal to their children that such behavior is acceptable, or even normative in friendships,” Glick said.
Previous research of this type focused on elementary-aged children, but MU researchers wanted to expand their study to focus on the formative adolescent years.
Youth ranging in age from 10 to 17 and their mothers were polled separately to measure perceived positive and negative friendship qualities in both groups.
Results showed that positive friendship qualities were not always imitated by adolescents; however, negative and antagonistic relationship characteristics exhibited by mothers were much more likely to be mimicked by the youth studied.
“We know that conflict is a normal part of any relationship — be it a relationship between a parent and a child, or a mother and her friends — and we’re not talking physical altercations but verbal conflicts,” Glick said.
“But being exposed to high levels of such conflict generally isn’t going to be good for children. Parents should consider whether they are good role models for their children especially where their friends are concerned. When things go awry, parents should talk with their children about how to act with their friends, but more specifically, how not to act.”
Researchers anticipate future studies on how conflict resolution may be incorporated into parental methods in the home.
Source: University of Missouri