Today's parents 'not to blame' for teenage problem behaviour

Today's parents 'not to blame' for teenage problem behaviour
Mobile phones and the internet create new challenges for today’s parents. Image by Serenity via Wikimedia Commons.
( -- Poor parenting is not the reason for an increase in problem behaviour amongst teenagers, according to research led by Oxford University.

A team led by Professor Frances Gardner from the Department of Social Policy and at the University of Oxford found no evidence of a general decline in parenting. Their findings show that differences in parenting according to family structure and income have narrowed over the last 25 years. However, the task of parenting is changing and could be getting increasingly stressful, particularly for some groups.

and teenagers are choosing to spend more quality time together than 25 years ago, with 70 per cent of regularly spending time with their mothers in 2006 compared to 62 per cent in 1986. For fathers, the figure had increased from 47 per cent to 52 per cent.

This research follows a Nuffield-funded study in 2004, which identified an increase in both conduct and emotional problems over the last 25 years.

Despite the rise, this latest study shows that today’s parents are more likely to know where their teenage children are and what they are doing than their 1980s equivalents. The proportion asking what their children were doing has increased from 47 per cent in 1986 to 66 per cent in 2006.

Differences in the monitoring of teenage children, according to family type and income, have narrowed. For example in 1994, 14-15 year olds from single parent families were more likely to be out late without their parents knowing where compared with two parent families, but by 2005 this difference had disappeared.

Professor Gardner said: ‘We found no evidence for declining standards of parenting overall, and this leads us to believe this factor does not generally explain the rise in problem behaviour.’

Parents of teenagers are increasingly likely to report symptoms of and themselves, particularly one-parent families and those on low incomes. For example, the proportion of parents from the most economically disadvantaged group who reported symptoms of depression and anxiety had increased by more than 50 per cent between 1986 and 2006.

The research highlights a different set of challenges for parents compared with 25 years ago. Young people now are reliant on their parents for longer, with higher proportions of 20-24 year olds living with their parents. Many more remain in some kind of education or training into their late teens. In addition, the development of new technology, such as mobile phones and the Internet, has created new monitoring challenges for parents.

'Today’s parents have had to develop skills that are significantly different and arguably more complex than 25 years ago, and this could be increasing the stress involved in parenting,’ Professor Gardner said.

The research, commissioned by the Nuffield Foundation for a briefing paper, Time trends in parenting and outcomes for young people, was authored by Dr Ann Hagell, Head of the Nuffield Foundation’s Changing Adolescence Programme.

The research team reviewed published evidence, and analysed two sets of UK nationally representative data. The first was the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS), with annual data on parenting reported by teenagers and their from 1994 onwards. The second data source comes from a related Nuffield-funded project, led by Dr Stephan Collishaw, to study causes of trends in youth mental health.

Provided by Oxford University (news : web)

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Jul 31, 2009
I would have preferred to have a reference to a paper so that I could look more closely at the study and how they determined that the parents of the children were "good parents." From what is presented here, I am lead to believe that their chief criteria for "good parenting" were "knowing where your children are at night" and "spending quality time with them." While these two items may be part of "good parenting," I am not lead to believe that other factors of the parents, such as the parents' "emotional health," factored into the study. IMHO, if the parents are not emotionally healthy, the children face a high probability of being emotionally unhealthy, too. The two criteria I mentioned could be the result of the parents being control freaks as an example of how these "good parent traits" could actually be "bad parent traits," and, thus, the assessment of this study could easily be wrong.

I see this as an extremely complicated issue, and I also hope that the researchers know this and controlled for other factors like those I have given. If not, I see this study as useless.

Jul 31, 2009
Bringing your children to anger will not help any child(Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians Chapter 6 Douay-Rheims Bible)-- from what I have read this is the complex factor parents need to keep in their repertoire while parenting all of the time; just acting foolishly and doing it some of the time will erase any parenting done.

Jul 31, 2009
Could it be that the children of lower income families are more depressed because they can't help the family out by working? The latest increases in minimum wage in several countries has caused the teen unemployment rates to rise. When employers are forced to pay more, they become more picky with their choices.

Jul 31, 2009
Could it be that the children of lower income families are more depressed because they can't help the family out by working?

Or could it be they're depressed because our society wants you to believe that material wealth is more important than respecting yourself and other people? They don't have one, so they don't have the other, hmmm...

Jul 31, 2009
Many parents get the disease of expertitis. Expertitis is the listening to the experts in child rearing. No spanking, being your kids friend, watching out for their self esteem, letting the state provide the sex and moral education, letting the kids decide on their religious beliefs, divorce can be good for kids, make the kids take adhd medicine etc. etc. etc.

Do most kids have worse behavior now than 20 years ago. yup! The cure...... dump expertitis.

Jul 31, 2009
Ok, the parents are not at fault... So who is? The grandparent? The schools? The government?
Some group MUST be held responsible.

Aug 01, 2009
Mandan, that was bloody hilarious. Thanks very much. :)

I agree with the thought that the parents are at fault, and are chiefly responsible for their effed-up kids' development.

Sore point: The appearance of a social stigma against spanking. I had the bejesus spanked out of me when I was little. It worked great! I learned QUITE fast what was acceptable and what wasn't. Then I got too big for spanking, and I discovered that a bit of pocket money is a wonderful thing, but you must be good to ensure you continue receiving it. Hah, I'm glad my parents are both intelligent people, who didn't put up with my childish rubbish.

Aug 01, 2009
Maybe they need to spend less of that "quality time" beating their kids. Or more time beating them. I don't care which. Try experimenting.

Maybe it's just that kids were always raised poorly but the opportunity for behavioral problems to cause problems are more numerous. When I grew up there were lots of violent, rude and offensive kids around but they were fairly good at avoiding parents and teachers awareness. Cyber-bullying is like regular bullying but with a virtual paper trail. Shoplifting can be discovered more easily. More societal divisions make it harder to be certain that everyone will cover for you when you pick on some kid who is different from the crowd.

Aug 02, 2009
Just have to laugh since so many of the commentators don't seem to actually have kids. Parents should just do "a" or "b" ... just you wait till the reality. Parenting is way harder these days. My parents would just say "get lost" and we'd go out and play. You just don't do that anymore. Society has changed to. You used to be able to be pretty stupid and dysfunctional but you could still be middle class by being a grocer or farmer. No more... The kids know this and they feel the pressure.

The parents are more pressured too and simply have less time and hence less energy and yet have to deal with their kids more. We're more mobile which is good/fun but it also hurts community. Religion was always BS, but it gave a sense of purpose. No more.

Things like ADHD were probably always there, but it shows up now in our more highly competitive, driven system. There's no easy answer for any of this and you're just a fool if you think you have a one size fits all "parental philosophy". Some kids are genetically fit for our current world, some aren't. The "parents" of the former will look great, the latter won't.

This all may be a societal phase we're going through, maybe the empire is just in decline. Maybe we'll start altering our genes and we'll all have super kids. But, you may think you have the answer and I may think that you are a fool.

Aug 02, 2009
I blame GaryB for making excuses.

Aug 02, 2009
A number of factors are undoubtedly responsible for the negative changes in today's children. However, to get clear answers you have to look at the successes not the failures. A major longitudinal study of successful children who grew up in dysfunctional families has shown that the undamaged survivors or "resilient" "superkids" all had at least one stable and caring adult (not necessarily a parent) in their lives and did not view themselves as "victims". More recent research on happiness, meanwhile, indicates that the happiest children are those who have learned obedience.

Aug 03, 2009
How about this analogy, acarrilho? I'm no pilot but I have been an airline passenger; does that mean my opinions on flying a jet are as good as those of pilots? I can certainly look back and have opinions on what was, or was not, detrimental to the experience but I won't object if someone calls me ignorant on the subject of flying jets.

Aug 03, 2009
If you don't have kids, you shouldn't even be posting here. That's like walking into the cockpit of the space shuttle and assuming you can advise the flight crew on what there best course of action is to complete their current mission. Don't confuse objectivity with complete ignorance...

LOL depends according to the study the pilot is skipping the shuttle of mountains and scattering broken children across the landscape and maybe could use some help but is instead screaming "I'M OK I'M OK" while clipping another mountian trying to kick the cockpit door shut with his foot.

I'd hazzard a guess that just spending quality time isn't enough boundaries need to be set. I was out with some friends for dinner this week they told their 6yr old daughter that unless she ate at least half of her dinner they were not going to order desert for her. When she started screaming and carrying on they told here that if she wouldn't behave they would just leave right now. Surprisingly she told them that if they did she would call the police and report them for abusing her and not feeding her. Now where does a 6 yr old child get this idea and why would she thing she could threaten her parents with that. I suspect that if you find the answer to that you will find the answer to why parents have a hard time setting boundaries.

I return you now to your previously crashing shuttle.

Aug 03, 2009
Good points. From my perspective, having BEEN a kid, and remembering certain aspects of my upbringing, I would say my parents did a good job. How do I know? Well, I seem to have turned out all right. At 21, I have a decent job that I enjoy, for now, and I pay my taxes, my rent, and other expenses. My friends and other people I encounter seem to think I'm a dependable, respectable individual. I take good care of myself, and the people that mean a lot to me.

I would like to think all of this gives me the right to comment on how effective my parents' methods of raising me were, but I could be totally wrong. I mean, I don't have kids myself, so I'm OBVIOUSLY not as qualified to speak out on this matter as, say, a couple who has had their kid taken away by the state on grounds of negligence. Sheesh.

Aug 05, 2009
On this subject I am almost afraid to say anything, even as a parent. Parenting is the most difficult, and the most rewarding activity that any of us will get to experience, and most parents will get it wrong at least part of the time. Not being a parent, and presuming to tell parents that they are getting it wrong, is unacceptable.

Being a parent and telling another parent that they are getting it wrong is plain stupid ... that parent is under enough stress and strain already.

Generalising the problems not only distributes the problem, but also amplifies it, resulting in every parent feeling insecure, paranoid and unable to do their 'job' to the best of their ability.

Parenting is not like flying an machine of any kind. If parents had all the support of the Space Shuttle pilot we would all be super parents. If we had someone to talk to on a headset when we needed help, or someone to tell us we are going the wrong way, that would be amasing.

Instead, parenting is waking up from deep exhausted sleep to a child distressed and crying and needing you to be that super parent no matter how you are feeling. To be their friend, to reassure them, to resolve the problem and make them comfortable anough to fall back to sleep ... all while being an exhausted zombie with professional commitments to maintain within hours, working with all those career people who have not found 'the right time' to become a parent yet.

Parenting is awsomely challenging, and it does not last less than an hour while on approach to Kennedy, not a few weeks of zero-g highly scheduled work effort, not even ten years of fully supported and standards assessed training.

Parenting is a lifetime commitment.

It is a stand alone task for many, and for the lucky it is something you share with one primary partner and a few part-time supporters.

When you get the flight of a machine wrong, (assuming you survive), you get to experience a world of recriminations, resentment and many uncomfortable consequences ... but you walk away and you get therapy and you start again.

When you get parenting wrong, you don't get to walk away or to start again. The consequences are a part of you and they are not something that anybody is going to help you to get over ... parenting is for life and the support systems are far less today than in the past, (with the exception of those experts who design utopian circumstances as statutory requirements of parental environments), and modern life requires us to be 'super' as individuals, let alone as individuals with young dependents.

All that I can hope for is that my child still talks to me at they reach forty, (if I am still around).

Considering that I have been called a very good parent by many, I still say that I am very lucky and that the contribution of my child to my parenting efforts is as important as anything that I could do.

As much as parents have 'social responsibility' for the results of their 'work', every single individual is responsible from an early age for learning how to live according to the current socially accepted norms.

Personally, that is what I believe every child is doing - right or wrong - just the same as we did.

Aug 05, 2009
I totally agree that you have to be a parent to contribute to this discussion or have a valid opinion about parenting.

Also, I believe:
- Geriatric medicine can only be practiced by the elderly.
- Pediatric medicine can only practiced by kids.
- Only women can be gynecologists.
- Only dead people can be coroners.

And since all of you are not me, you can't criticize me. So there.

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