Parental bonds survive teen angst

Parental bonds survive teen angst

Media release — 22 July 2013

The stereotype of adolescence as a time of storm and strife with parents is far from accurate, according to a family trends report released today by the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

The AIFS' report Australian Families With Children and Adolescents reveals that an overwhelming 72 per cent of teenagers aged between 15 and 17 are 'highly satisfied' with their relationships with their parents.

AIFS' Director, Professor Alan Hayes said that contrary to the myth of the teenage years being accompanied by constant arguments or fighting between teenagers and parents, most young people and their parents are very happy with their relationships with each other.

"On a rating scale of zero to ten, most adolescents rank their parents at eight or above indicating high levels of satisfaction with the quality of the relationship they have with their parents," Professor Hayes said.

"So while adolescents may want more freedom, and may rail against the level of supervision and monitoring they may perceive they are being subjected to by their mothers in particular, generally parental relationships are very strong.

"While some adolescents do encounter times of strife, most in fact go on to complete the journey to adulthood in good shape with the ability to be resilient and cope with challenges and difficulties.

"We also know from other, longer-term research that adolescents with high quality relationships with their parents are progressing better than others across all aspects of life, including peer relationships and school progress."

Professor Hayes said the majority of parents were also highly satisfied with their relationships with their children.

"Mothers were particularly upbeat, with 82 per cent of mothers expressing satisfaction with their relationship with their children, compared to 71 per cent of fathers with their father-child relationship."

AIFS' Assistant Director (Research) Ms Ruth Weston, said the report also examined parents' personal relationships with their step-children, an area that appeared to be more problematic than relationships between biological parents and their adolescent children.

"This is clearly much trickier terrain and our research showed that around 42 per cent of step-mothers, were highly satisfied with their personal relationship with their step-children. Step-fathers were more likely to express high satisfaction than were step-mothers, but not nearly as likely to do so as biological parents. Fifty-seven per cent of step-fathers expressed high satisfaction with the relationship they had with their step-children," Ms Weston said.

"The feeling appears to be mutual when it comes to what step-children think of their step-parents, with both step-daughters and step-sons far from satisfied with their relationships with step-parents. Thirty-eight per cent of girls and 48 per cent of boys were highly satisfied with their relationships with step-parents.

"There are a lot of complexities in step-families. In times past, you typically became a step-parent when a biological parent died. However, these days it's more likely to come about through separation and re-partnering, so children may have one or two step-parents.

"Family relationships are also more complex than in the past. Whether a new partner is seen as a step-parent may vary not only across families but also within a family.

"These family dynamics can be especially complicated for adolescents who find themselves moving between households and having to balance these new relationships along with different household rules and approaches to parenting.

"Of course, no two families are quite the same and it is clear that the way families function is more important for everyone's well-being than the way a family is formed."

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