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Assist. Prof. Metka Kuhar, University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Social Sciences Authority and authority styles in adolescents-parents relationships.

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Presentation on theme: "Assist. Prof. Metka Kuhar, University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Social Sciences Authority and authority styles in adolescents-parents relationships."— Presentation transcript:

1 Assist. Prof. Metka Kuhar, University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Social Sciences Authority and authority styles in adolescents-parents relationships

2 Starting points 1-4 Authority – term undifferentiatedly used, theoretically undefined  Parental behaviour as ranging along the control-autonomy continuum (from parents’ total control over their child’s behaviour to parents ceding complete autonomy to their child)  Importance and co-existence of both instrumental/regulating/controlling and affective/supportive/responsive parental practices for positive youth outcomes  Focus on the influence of individual socialisation behaviors or family’s emotional climate on youth outcomes (such as academic success, self- esteem, delinquent behaviour etc) OR on the degree of the youth’s internalisation of parental rules or demands (from external responsiveness to internalised conformity with the parents’ expectations)

3 Starting points 2-4 Parental authority is equated with: the distribution of decision-making power between parents and adolescents (Dornbusch) the parental legitimacy to set rules in different social domains (Smetana, Turiel); i.e. functionally equated with “the vehicle” for asserting the parental will referred to as one of the parenting style practices (besides maturity demands, communication style, nurturance) (Baumrind) measured on the scale of parental authority prototypes (Buri, 1999 referring to Baumrind, 1971)  Peterson, Bush, Wilson, and Hennon (2005) - a more explicit definition of authority: “youthful perceptions of their parents’ competencies and resources” influential dimensions of parental authority are non-behavioural in nature and rooted in the lengthy history of relationships between parents and adolescents  Bush, Supple, and Lash (2005): parental expert, legitimate, and coercive authority

4 Starting points 3-4  Distinction between a more coercive and a more deliberative way of exercising parental rules/demands (repressive enforcement of parental rules/demands and favouring unquestionable obedience vs. bilateral, mutual communication processes between children and parents)  A general manner of authority or control assertion vs. the regulation of certain areas of the youth’s life vs. parental disciplinary practices related to the content-specific situations/interactions and misdeeds?  In the process of growing-up: gradual relaxation of parental authority, providing increasing autonomy of action, independence of thinking and self-regulation to youth  Situationally grounded culture of everyday negotiation about rules inside and outside the family: the balance of power between parents and children is more equal and achievement of consensus very important (du Bois-Reymond et al)

5 Starting points 4-4  An integral framework that would encompass different key aspects is missing  Tentative definition: authority as the power to influence, as a special form of an asymmetrical/hierarchical relationship which prepares a subjected party to “voluntarily” internalise contents communicated by a superior party or to comply with them (Kroflič).  Toward the (theoretically and empirically) integrated concept of authority? the distribution of power in the family the authority forms the style/manner of the parental enforcement of power (the way of imposing rules, setting limits, controlling, sanctioning etc.) the types of parental justification/legitimisation of rules, limits, control, sanctions etc. the child’s reaction to parental ‘measures’ the domain- or situation-specificity of asserting authority.


7  The main goal of the study was to analyse interaction patterns around issues of authority in potentially conflict encounters in parents-youth’s relationships  The first step towards an in-depth and clear explication of the concept of parental authority as a theoretical term, not only as an (superficial empirical) construct  The vignette study part addressed the manner in which youth (11 to 18 adolescents and their parents reacted in the concrete, potentially conflict situations; and the perceived real and ideal results of those interactions

8  The quantitative study addressed : in what manner is parental authority enacted in Slovenian families with 11-18-old children: on the level of open, egalitarian exchange of opinions and negotiation; or as more or less direct enforcement of parental power and as an appeal to child to conform; or in the manner of psychological control/ 'maltreating'?  The factors influencing the authority patterns (e.g. the age and sex of adolescent and of parent), the parental educational consensus, perception of relationship/relationship satisfaction)

9  Postdoctoral research project 'Communicative and authority relationships between parents and children‘ conducted in Slovenia in 2007/2008, funded by a two-year grant of the Slovenian Science Foundation  Quantitative-qualitative study on a sample of 194 Slovenian families with 11-18 years old first-borns and both parents  Pilot sample of 24 families  On the basis of qualitative answers given by each family member five most frequent contentious topics were chosen  4 vignettes  Quantitative part: conversation and conformity orientation + psychological control scales


11  Homework. It is Wednesday afternoon. You are sitting in front of a computer screen. Your parents come home and realise you are playing games (or something similar) before doing your homework and preparing for the next school-day. Your parents want you to do all your schoolwork immediately.  Piercing. Your parents notice that you have had part of your body pierced. They are against the piercing and want you to remove it immediately.  Curfew. It is Friday evening and you are going out. Your parents want you to come home at a certain hour. You come home one hour later without informing your parents about the delay by phone. (follow the standard questions about the course and outcome of what was going on).  Household chores. Your parents told you to vacuum clean the apartment on Saturday. Because you do not want to do it you tell your parents that you will not do it. They insist on you doing the chore.

12 Course of the Interactions in Situations Challenging Parental Authority (coded open answers from vignettes)

13 Course of the Interactions more precisely –examples 1-2:  Discussion/negotiation: negotiation about the adolescent’s rights/duties/rules, debate, discussion, conversation, compromise-seeking, consensus-seeking, productive quarrel, agreement-seeking, analysis of the adolescent’s wishes, analysis of advantages and disadvantages/dangers of a certain act etc 'First my parents give their opinion about piercing, and then I get to express my opinion. Then we try to reach an agreement.' – son 58, the piercing vignette  Non-reciprocal communication: parental command, threat, warning, reproach, critique, lecturing, conditioning for the future, (emotional) outburst, irritation, shouting, exacerbation, blaming, only an uttered sanction or punishment, verbal conflict etc ‘When I would come home, I would go directly to my room, then my mother would enter and she would tell me that if I won’t call the next time, I won’t be allowed to go out anymore. ‘- son 8, the delay vignette

14 Course of the Interactions more precisely –examples 2-2:  Parental tolerance: parents allow autonomy/manoeuvre space 'Since my child is so obedient, good at school, I let her have the piercing, although I do mind' – father 17, the piercing vignette 'I let the child stay behind the computer for a while and then make her do her homework' – mother 135, the homework vignette  Adolescent’s self-responsibility : a.’s behaviour is in accordance with the parents’ views or that the adolescent is expected to act according to the parents’ expectations or is self-responsible for the item in question 'My daughter knows how many duties she has and if she can carry them out. Therefore I only ask her whether she can afford to stay in front of the computer' – father 65, the homework vignette

15 Results of the Interactions in Situations Challenging Parental Authority

16 Compliance more precisely  the unquestionability of conformity (i.e. 'The child has to mention an excusable reason and do their homework immediately.' – mother 7, homework vignette)  involuntary conformity (i.e. 'I would be forced to remove the piercing.' – daughter 10, piercing vignette)  reflected extrinsic conformity (i.e. 'I only obey to prevent quarrelling and to be left in peace.' – son 191, homework vignette)  conformity after failed resistance ('I try to convince them to the contrary but I usually fail, so I submit.' – daughter 55, the chores vignette)  conformity due to parental arguments ('I would convince the child with arguments that her behaviour does not have any sense.' – father 22, piercing vignette)  compliance in the form of the adolescent's apologising for their actions, and promises that they would not break the rule again in the curfew vignette

17 Ideal Results of the Interactions in Situations Challenging Parental Authority


19 Important finding  Conformity orientation and psychological control together reflect a coercive way of parental authority enforcement  A conversation orientation reflects a democratic or deliberative manner of parental authority enforcement  I propose the concept of AUTHORITY STYLE - as a general designation of the communicative enforcement of parental authority

20  The 11-18 years old children have a relatively small manoeuvring space regarding their parents’ demands  The ‘fiction’ of egalitarianism: families with ‘adolescents’ live in a pseudo-democratic environment  Authority patterns do not change with the young people’s increasing age: a symbiosis between adolescents and their parents, age- inappropriate dependence on their parents?

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