Mothers who do not feel in control of their lives and who struggle with their teenage children can benefit significantly from having a social support network. But struggling dads in the same situation don’t seem to reap any benefits from social support, according to a new study published in the journal Family Process.
“Parenting teenagers is not always easy. We wanted to look at what may make it easier to be a warm and positive parent with appropriate rules for teenage children,” said Dr. Terese Glatz, researcher in social work at Örebro University in Sweden. The study was conducted in collaboration with colleagues in the U.S.
The findings from the first part of the study show that parents who feel they are in control of their lives and parenthood are more consistent and better at setting boundaries. In addition, parents with a social support network maintain a warmer relationship with their children compared to parents who are more isolated.
Thus, a sense of control and a social network appear to benefit parents in different ways.
In the next step of the study, the researchers took a closer look at what can be done to help parents who feel that they are not in control of their lives. That is when they discovered a difference between mothers and fathers.
“A social support network proved to be a help to mothers in their parenting role. The support may involve help of a practical nature, such as baby sitting, as well as emotional support in the sense of having somebody who listens to you when you are having a hard time. For mothers who feel they are not in control of their lives, social support can help them build a better relationship with their children,” said Glatz.
“Social support in times when you feel you are not in control, may help reduce stress and mothers are able to act in a more positive way towards their children.”
However, when fathers in the study expressed a sense of not being in control of their lives, social support did not seem to help the situation.
“Therefore, we need to focus our efforts in different directions for mothers and fathers who are having a hard time. Support activities for fathers may perhaps need to focus specifically on how they can regain a sense of control, while the efforts in helping mothers may entail support in expanding their social network,” says Glatz.
Source: Örebro University