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Tips to Improve Father-Teen Relationships

Tips to Improve Father-Teen Relationships Just in time for Father’s Day, new research provides insights for enhancing harmony among fathers and their adolescent children.

San Francisco State University professor Dr. Jeff Cookston discovered that when an adolescent is having an argument with their father and seeks out others for help, the response he or she receives improves well-being and father-child relationships.

It appears that adolescents who receive a reason for the father’s behavior or a better understanding of who is at fault, feel better about themselves and about dad as well.

Those feelings about dad, in turn, are linked to a lower risk of depression for youth.

In the study, published in the Journal of Research on Adolescence, Cookston explains the findings represent a concept termed “guided cognitive reframing,” or how a teen benefits from talking to someone about conversations with their father.

Previous research looked at who adolescents sought out for reframing and why; this study takes that research a step further.

“There has been a lot of evidence suggesting that talking to people about conflict is a good thing for adolescents,” he said.

“What we did for the first time was look at what actually happens when they talk to someone.”

Cookston and his colleagues surveyed 392 families about adolescents’ conflicts with their co-resident fathers and stepfathers.

Parents and children were asked who was sought out for support and how frequently; how often those individuals explained the fathers’ behavior or blamed the fathers for the conflict; and how the adolescents felt about themselves and their fathers after the reframing.

Mothers were the most sought-out source for reframing, followed by a non-parental figure — a friend, for example, or a non-parental family member.

Next were biological fathers and, lastly, stepfathers. But how often adolescents seek out a specific source for support does not have an impact on their well-being, the study showed.

Instead, it is the quality of the reframing — whether an explanation is provided for dad’s behavior or whether responsibility for the conflict is assigned — that drives how they feel following the conversation.

“When kids get explanations and good reasons that fit with the world they see, it helps them feel better,” Cookston said.

“It’s sometimes hard to change how adolescents feel about situations, but we can talk to them about how they think about those situations.”

Half the families surveyed consisted of co-resident biological fathers and half were co-resident stepfathers.

In addition, the survey group was split between families of European descent and families of Mexican descent. But despite those variations in the families, the results were overwhelmingly similar.

The study highlights the value of helping adolescents understand conflict, their role in the family and their relationships, according to Cookston.

“Adolescence is a time of physiological changes in the brain and in the way a child sees and interprets the world. We can use this time to help them understand personal relationships the same way we expect them to learn and understand, for example, geometry or algebra,” he said.

“Families are happier when they have less negative emotions, so anything we can do to promote more positive or even more neutral emotions within family is desirable.”

Cookston’s research comes as there is increasing attention on fathers who find themselves in transitional roles in today’s economy.

The Pew Research Center recently reported compelling new information on stay-at-home dads, and while such particulars aren’t part of the study, it’s another component affecting fatherhood and the relationships with children.

Cookston has conducted wide-ranging research on parenting and fatherhood, with a focus on how children from diverse backgrounds respond to parenting, and how children perceive and construct relationships with fathers.

His research has shown that the relationship between father and child can have a significant impact on the child’s tendencies toward depression and behavior problems.

Source: San Francisco State University

Teenager and father photo by shutterstock.

Tips to Improve Father-Teen Relationships

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Tips to Improve Father-Teen Relationships. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 9 Jun 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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