This Week's Herman Trend Alert

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  The Herman Trend Alert

September 15, 2010

Teen Perceptions of Parenting

A recently released study of parenting in comparing teen perceptions of bonding and control in Canada, France, and Italy reveals some fascinating differences: Canadian teenagers enjoy more freedom than their French and Italian peers. Conducted by psychologists from respected universities in the three countries, the study examined how parents create emotional bonds and exert behavioral control with their adolescents. The researchers chose these countries because of their perceived commonalities: Latin languages, Catholic history, and advanced industrialization.

The researchers asked teens to describe their parents, according to emotional bonding, communication, frequency of conflict, rules, discipline, and tolerance of friend-related activities. "Parents are perceived as emotionally bonded by teens from all three countries, yet perception of parental control contrasted between Italy and Canada", says Michel Claes, a University of Montreal professor. Of all three countries, Italian mothers and fathers are perceived as being the "strictest"---they also take more punitive actions when rules are broken and are less tolerant of peer socialization. "They uphold family regulations and require their adolescents to ask for authorizations until a much later age", added Dr. Claes.

Published in the "Journal of Adolescence", the study found Canadian parents to be the most tolerant. They had fewer rules and took less disciplinary action. "Canadian mothers and fathers were seen as less punitive, less coercive, and more tolerant than French and Italian mothers."

"Moderate" best describes the French mode of parenting. However, French fathers were perceived by their teens as "emotionally distant, rigid, and prone to intergenerational conflict". As their children grew into adolescence, French mothers were reported to "foster closer bonds ".

In all three countries, teens experienced a gradual decrease in behavioral control between the ages of 11 and 19: parents reduced requirements and disciplinary constraints. The study found that parental control is dictated by social codes and culture-specific values, which promote certain parental practices and forbid others. Interestingly, Canadian parents value a democratic conception of education that promotes independence and negotiation, while Europeans parents, especially Italians, expect their children to feel obligated and have a lot of respect for parental authority.

These differences in parenting will no doubt result in adults with different attitudes and values sets. These are the young people who will be leading these countries in 20 to 30 years. We can only hope that along with other values and attitudes that parents are teaching tolerance and the value of education.


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