We tested a developmental cascade model of autonomy and relatedness in the progression from parent to friend to romantic relationships across ages 13, 18, and 21. Participants included 184 adolescents (53% female, 58% Caucasian, 29% African American) recruited from a public middle school in Virginia. Parental psychological control at age 13 undermined the development of autonomy and relatedness, predicting relative decreases in autonomy and relatedness with friends between ages 13 and 18 and lower levels of autonomy and relatedness with partners at age 18. These cascade effects extended into adult friendships and romantic relationships, with autonomy and relatedness with romantic partners at age 18 being a strong predictor of autonomy and relatedness with both friends and partners at age 21.
Publications by Year: 2015
This study used a longitudinal, multi-method design to examine whether teens’ perceptions of maternal psychological control predicted lower levels of adolescent autonomy displayed with their mothers and peers over time. Significant predictions from teens’ perceptions of maternal psychological control to teens’ displays of autonomy in maternal and peer relationships were found at age 16 after accounting for adolescent displays of autonomy with mothers and peers at age 13, indicating relative changes in teens’ autonomy displayed with their mother and a close peer over time. Results suggest that the ability to assert one’s autonomy in mid-adolescence may be influenced by maternal behavior early in adolescence, highlighting the importance of parents minimizing psychological control to facilitate autonomy development for teens.
The ability to form and maintain relationships with friends and romantic partners is a major develop-mental task for adolescents. Disagreeable youth are likely to struggle with this task, yet little is knownabout how they maintain their oppositional style from adolescence to adulthood. The current studyexamines the long-term implications of disagreeableness in a diverse sample of 164 adolescents assessedrepeatedly across a 10-year period along with their friends and romantic partners. Disagreeableness atage 14 and 15 was assessed in observation with friends. Disagreeableness was then examined as a pre-dictor of both future relationship quality with friends at age 16 and romantic relationships at age 21. Theresults indicate that although disagreeable youth do not report any relationship struggles, both theirfriends and romantic partners see their relationships as being low in quality. Findings suggest a develop-mental process by which disagreeable adolescents maintain their oppositional style through a mecha-nism of relationship blindness, as they simply are unable to see the relationship issues that theirfriends and partners clearly perceive.
The long-term impacts of failing to establish autonomy and relatedness within close friendships are poorly understood. Adolescent behaviors undermining autonomy and relatedness in friendships at 13 were examined as predictors of friendship competence at 18 and depressive symptoms and social withdrawal at 21. A diverse community sample of 184 adolescents participated in self, peer, and observational assessments. Teens’ inability to establish autonomy and connection with friends at 13 predicted decreases in friendship competence at 18 (ß=-.20, p=. 02). Direct links to increases in depressive symptoms (ß=.34, p<.001) and social withdrawal (ß=. 18, p=.03) were observed, with friendship competence partially mediating these relations. Results highlight the importance of problematic adolescent peer relationships as risk factors for the development of young adult internalizing symptoms.
This study assessed qualities of adolescent peer relationships as long-term predictors of physical health quality in adulthood. In an intensive multimethod, multireporter study of a community sample of 171 individuals assessed repeatedly from the ages of 13 to 27 years, physical health quality in adulthood was robustly predicted by independent reports of early-adolescent closefriendship quality and by a pattern of acquiescence to social norms in adolescent peer relationships. Predictions remained after accounting for numerous potential confounds, including prior health problems, concurrent body mass index, anxious and depressive symptoms, personality characteristics, adolescent-era financial adversity, and adolescent-era physical attractiveness. These findings have important implications for understanding the unique intensity of peer relationships in adolescence.
The world of peers presents a unique developmental challenge to adolescents—one that is likely to be linked to prior experiences within the family, affected by concurrent experiences with adults outside the family, and predictive of future mental and physical health. To negotiate relationships with peers successfully, adolescents must manage the challenge of connecting with peers while establishing autonomy regarding peer influences. Both the nature of this challenge and how it is handled are linked closely to the ways adolescents are treated by the adults in their lives. Adolescents’ capacities for autonomy and connection can be developed both in the family and in interventions that engage youth with adults outside the family, suggesting a substantial role for adults in easing adolescents’ peer challenges.
Objective—Youths' ability to positively cope with negative emotions and their self-perceived friendship competence were examined as potential moderators of links between multiple aspects of romantic relationships and residualized increases in depressive symptoms from late adolescence into early adulthood.
Method—Participants included 184 teens (46% male; 42% non-white) assessed at ages 15-19 and 21, as well as a sub-sample of 62 romantic partners of participants assessed when teens were 18.
Results—Results of hierarchical linear regressions showed that positive coping served as a buffer against depressive symptoms for romantically involved adolescents and also for teens receiving more intense emotional support from their romantic partners, but not for youth whose relationship had ended and had not been replaced by a new relationship. Higher perceived friendship competence served as a buffer against depressive symptoms for youth enduring the dissolution and non-replacement of their romantic relationship.
Conclusions—Greater use of positive coping skills and higher perceived friendship competence may help protect adolescents from depressive symptoms in different types of romantic experiences.
Objective—This multi-method, longitudinal study examines the negotiation of autonomy and relatedness between teens and their mothers as etiologic predictors of perpetration and victimization of dating aggression two years later.
Method—Observations of 88 mid-adolescents and their mothers discussing a topic of disagreement were coded for each individual’s demonstrations of autonomy and relatedness using a validated coding system. Adolescents self-reported on perpetration and victimization of physical and psychological dating aggression two years later. We hypothesized that mother’s and adolescents’ behaviors supporting autonomy and relatedness would longitudinally predict lower reporting of dating aggression, and that their behaviors inhibiting autonomy and relatedness would predict higher reporting of dating aggression.
Results—Hypotheses were not supported; main findings were characterized by interactions of sex and risk status with autonomy. Maternal behaviors supporting autonomy predicted higher reports of perpetration and victimization of physical dating aggression for girls, but not for boys. Adolescent behaviors supporting autonomy predicted higher reports of perpetration of physical dating aggression for high-risk adolescents, but not for low-risk adolescents.
Conclusions—Results indicate that autonomy is a dynamic developmental process, operating differently as a function of social contexts in predicting dating aggression. Examination of these and other developmental processes within parent-child relationships is important in predicting dating aggression, but may depend on social context.
Neuroimaging studies using the social-exclusion paradigm Cyberball indicate increased dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) and right insula activity as a function of exclusion. However, comparatively less work has been done on how social status factors may moderate this finding. This study used the Cyberball paradigm with 85 (45 females) socio-economically diverse participants from a larger longitudinal sample. We tested whether neighborhood quality during adolescence would predict subsequent neural responding to social exclusion in young adulthood. Given previous behavioral studies indicating greater social vigilance and negative evaluation as a function of lower status, we expected that lower adolescent neighborhood quality would predict greater dACC activity during exclusion at young adulthood. Our findings indicate that young adults who lived in low-quality neighborhoods in adolescence showed greater dACC activity to social exclusion than those who lived in higher quality neighborhoods. Lower neighborhood quality also predicted greater prefrontal activation in the superior frontal gyrus, dorsal medial prefrontal cortex and the middle frontal gyrus, possibly indicating greater regulatory effort. Finally, this effect was not driven by subsequent ratings of distress during exclusion. In sum, adolescent neighborhood quality appears to potentiate neural responses to social exclusion in young adulthood, effects that are independent of felt distress.