Relationships among parenting behavior, the quality of the family environment, and adjustment outcome in college students

Date of Completion

January 2003


Psychology, Behavioral|Psychology, Clinical|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies




The present study explored relationships among parenting behavior and both proximal and distal outcome variables in older adolescents reared in intact families. Predictive associations were investigated between parental child-rearing behavior and offspring's perceptions of the quality of the family environment, risk of childhood sexual abuse, and current psychological adjustment. The effects of gender and rater type (parent or adolescent) on the predictive associations between child-rearing and outcome were examined. The hypothesis was tested: College samples utilized in family environment research are biased in the direction of participation by psychologically healthier adolescents and families than exists in the general or college population. Parental warmth and restrictiveness were predictive of the quality of the family environment, risk of childhood sexual abuse, dysphoric symptomatology, interpersonal dysfunction, pathological loneliness, and dysfunctional sexual behavior. Parental risk factors were additive in predicting negative outcome. Paternal warmth and restrictiveness were found to be as predictive of outcome as were maternal child-rearing behaviors on these same dimensions. Results suggested that sons and daughters experience mothering and fathering differently, with paternal warmth predicting adjustment outcome, the quality of the family environment, and risk of childhood sexual abuse for daughters more effectively than for sons, and maternal warmth predicting outcome on these measures more effectively for sons than for daughters. Parents in this study described themselves as warmer and less restrictive than did adolescent offspring. Mothers were rated as warmer and less restrictive than were fathers, and daughters rated parents more favorably than did sons. In this research design, adolescents consented to parental solicitation for research participation and this resulted in selection bias in the direction of greater participation by higher functioning families. In was also found that parents who were willing to participate were more effective, warmer, more child-focused and less rigid in their parenting behavior than parents who were nonresponsive to research solicitation. Results from the present study highlight the importance of examining conjointly the parent-offspring relationship, gender of offspring and parent, and perspectives from parents and adolescents when investigating relationships among the child-rearing environment and adjustment outcome. ^