*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on Penn State University.
Adolescence can be an emotionally turbulent time, but new research at Penn State found that close, supportive relationships with parents — especially dads — at key points during adolescence can help stave off certain adjustment problems.
The researchers examined how emotionally close and supportive relationships with parents — referred to in the research as “parental intimacy” — in families with mothers and fathers affected their children’s self-esteem, weight concerns, and depressive symptoms at different points across adolescence.
They found that closeness with fathers had broad, positive effects across adolescence for both daughters and sons. But while close relationships with mothers also had benefits, they were more limited by their children’s age and weren’t protective against all the adjustment issues measured in the study for both girls and boys.
The researchers recruited 388 adolescents from 202 two-parent families with both fathers and mothers for the study. Data was gathered at three checkpoints when the participants were between the ages of 12 and 20, and included information on participants’ weight concerns, symptoms of depression, and self-esteem, as well as measurements of intimacy between parents and their kids.
After analyzing the data, the researchers found several different effects of parental intimacy on their sons and daughters at different times throughout adolescence. These effects were also different between mothers and fathers.
They also found that father-youth intimacy was associated with fewer weight concerns for both girls and boys throughout most of adolescence, with the greatest effects in mid-adolescence for girls and late adolescence for boys. In contrast, mother-youth intimacy was only associated with fewer weight concerns for boys, and only in early adolescence.
Additionally, father-youth intimacy was associated with higher self-esteem from early through mid-adolescence for both boys and girls. Mother-youth intimacy was associated with higher self-esteem across most of adolescence for girls, and during early and late adolescence for boys.
The study was published in the Journal of Family Psychology.
Source: Penn State University