Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Aaron Metzger

Committee Co-Chair

Amy Gentzler

Committee Member

Cheryl McNeil

Committee Member

Christine Rittenour

Committee Member

Lesley Cottrell


As adolescents spend more time away from home and increasingly engage in unsupervised activities, parents are challenged with allowing their children more responsibility while still promoting positive youth development (Smetana, Campione-Barr, & Metzger, 2006). Extant research shows that parents continue to play an important roll in facilitating positive adolescent development through their knowledge of what their adolescent children are doing and whom they are with when away from home or school (Racz & McMahon, 2011). Recent research has focused on understanding the sources of parents’ knowledge and has identified both parentdriven (rules, solicitation, indirect, covert) and adolescent-driven (disclosure, secrecy, concealment) strategies. Much of the findings suggest adolescent disclosure is a primary source of parental knowledge, while research regarding the effectiveness of parent-driven strategies is inconsistent (Anderson & Branstetter, 2012; Kerr, Stattin, & Burk, 2010). These inconsistencies may exist because parents’ involvement in the process that facilitates parental knowledge is more complex than previously studied, as previous research has investigated parental information gathering from the vantage that parents are motivated to obtain information in order to protect their adolescent children from harm. However, beyond parents’ desire to keep their children safe, parents likely have other motivations for learning about their adolescent children’s lives, including but not limited to promoting emotional well-being, desiring to keep their adolescent out of trouble, promoting future success, and maintaining a good relationship with their adolescent. From a social domain perspective, parents’ knowledge-seeking motivations may vary based on the type of adolescent behavior parents desire knowledge about, including conventional activities, dating behaviors, peer behaviors, school-related behaviors, and substance use. However, parents’ motivations for knowledge about these behaviors may also vary as a function of individual characteristics, such as adolescent age, gender, parental knowledge, and parental harmfulness beliefs. Furthermore, the information gathering strategies parents employ to gain knowledge likely depend on the motivation driving their information seeking. In addition, adolescents are expected to recognize their parents have different knowledge-seeking motivations and youths’ perceptions of the motivations driving their parents’ information seeking may influence adolescents’ own information management. Therefore, the present study had multiple goals: (1) investigate the extent to which parents’ motivations for desiring knowledge differ based on the type of adolescent behavior, (2) examine individual differences in parents’ knowledge-seeking motivations, (3) investigate behavior-specific associations between parents knowledge-seeking motivations and information gathering strategies, (4) examine adolescent reports of their parents’ knowledge-seeking motivations, (5) investigate behaviorspecific associations between adolescent-reported parental knowledge-seeking motivations and adolescents’ information management. Participants included 196 adolescents (M = 16.04, SD = 1.25, range 13-19, 62% female) and their parents (N = 193, M = 45.36, SD = 6.31, range 30-64, 84% female) who completed questionnaires. Parents and adolescents reported parental motivations for gaining knowledge about seven behavior categories, including conventional, dating expression, dating identity, dating supervision, peers, school, and substance use. Parents also reported how much knowledge they have about each behavior, how harmful they believe the behaviors are, and the strategies they utilize to gather information about the behaviors, including rules, solicitation, indirect and covert monitoring strategies. Additionally, adolescents reported their engagement in delinquent and substance use behaviors, as well as the ways in which they share information with their parents about each behavior, including adolescent disclosure, secrecy and concealment. Results indicated that parents’ motivations did, indeed, vary based on the type of behavior. Across behaviors, parents were most motivated to protect their adolescents’ physical safety, however, more variability emerged in parent-reported motivation for desiring knowledge about multifaceted behaviors such as dating and peer-related behaviors. Adolescent age, gender and parental harmfulness beliefs qualified parents’ knowledge-seeking motivations regarding multifaceted behaviors. Contrary to parents’ reports, adolescents reported their parents were most motivated to keep them out of trouble across behaviors. Adolescent gender qualified adolescent-reported parental knowledge-seeking motivations across all behavior categories except school-related behaviors. Finally, parental knowledge-seeking motivations were associated with different parental information gathering strategies and adolescent information management in both the parent and adolescent-report models. In sum, these results suggest that parental information gathering is more complex than previously researched as both parent and adolescent-reported parental knowledge-seeking motivations varied by type of behavior and were influenced by important contextual and psychological factors. Additionally, parentalknowledge seeking motivations were linked to different parental information gathering and adolescent information management strategies.