Date of Graduation
Eberly College of Arts and Sciences
Parental psychological control has consistently been found to be associated with problematic outcomes among adolescents, including substance use (Galambos, Barker, & Almeida, 2003), risky cyber behaviors (Li, Li, & Newman, 2013), problematic eating behaviors (Soenens et al., 2008), and depressive symptoms (Romm & Metzger, 2018). However, few studies have examined how adolescents reason about and react to psychological control. Recent research has suggested that adolescents vary in their beliefs about parental motivations for using psychological control, as well as their level of disapproval of psychological control (Camras et al., 2012; Kakihara & Tilton-Weaver, 2009). These cognitive factors (i.e., beliefs about parental motivations and disapproval) may influence adolescents’ likelihood of experiencing problematic outcomes in response to psychological control. Thus, the current study examined whether adolescents’ beliefs about parental motivations for using psychological control, as well as their level of disapproval of psychological control moderate the association between psychological control and problematic outcomes. The current study also examined the three-way interaction between psychological control, adolescents’ beliefs about parental motivations for using psychological control, and adolescents’ level of disapproval of psychological control on predicting problematic outcomes.
To address these goals, 410 adolescents (Mage = 15.00, SD = 1.64; 57.6% female) were recruited from two middle schools and two high schools in two mid-Atlantic states. Participants completed self-report questionnaires in their classrooms assessing parental psychological control, adolescents’ beliefs about their parents’ motivations for using psychological control, adolescents’ disapproval of psychological control, as well as adolescents’ engagement in substance use, risky cyber behaviors, problematic eating behaviors, and depressive symptoms.
The associations among psychological control and adolescents’ problematic outcomes varied by adolescents’ beliefs about and disapproval of psychological control. Specifically, maternal psychological control was associated with greater substance use for adolescents with fewer positive beliefs and with greater over-eating behaviors for adolescents with greater negative beliefs about their mothers’ use of psychological control. Adolescents with greater disapproval of maternal psychological control were at greater risk for experiencing depressive symptoms in response to maternal psychological control. Paternal psychological control was associated with greater over-eating behaviors and depressive symptoms for adolescents with greater levels of negative beliefs about their fathers’ motivations for using psychological control. Three-way interactions between psychological control, adolescents’ beliefs, and adolescents’ disapproval also emerged. Specifically, maternal psychological control was associated with greater under-eating for adolescents with high levels of negative beliefs and high levels of disapproval only. Additionally, paternal psychological control was associated with greater substance use and under-eating behaviors for adolescents with low levels of positive beliefs and high levels of disapproval only.
The current study builds on the psychological control literature by examining how adolescents’ interpretations and feelings about psychological control influence their likelihood for being negatively influenced by this parenting behavior. Findings suggest that adolescents are differentially impacted by psychological control based on their beliefs about why their parents engage in this parenting behavior, as well as their disapproval of psychological control. This research offers insight into the importance of adolescents’ sociocognitive factors in influencing their response to negative parenting.
Romm, Katelyn F., "Adolescents’ Interpretations of Parental Psychological Control: The Role of Beliefs and Disapproval on Problematic Outcomes" (2020). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 7629.