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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Maryland: Study Finds Mother-Adolescent Relationships in African American Families Benefit From Authoritative Parenting Styles

In a study recently published in Science in Practice, University of Maryland School of Public Health researchers found that relationships between mothers and adolescents in African American families benefit from authoritative parenting styles. 

The study, “Parenting Style and Parent-Adolescent Relationship Quality in African American Mother-Adolescent Dyads” was led by Department of Family Science associate professor, Dr. Mia Smith-Bynum and co-authored by instructor, Dr. John Hart and post-doctoral associate, Dr. Erica Coates. 

Because poor relationships between parents and their adolescent children can result in higher levels of anxiety, aggression and substance use, among other negative outcomes, it is important to have strong family bonds — and parenting style is a strong predictor of the quality of parent-child relationships.

The researchers measured four parenting styles: authoritative (high demandingness/control, high warmth and responsiveness, age-appropriate autonomy), authoritarian (high demandingness, low warmth), indulgent (low demandingness, high responsiveness) and neglectful (low demandingness, low responsiveness), in socioeconomically diverse households. Adolescents with authoritative mothers reported greater trust, better communication and less alienation in their relationships with their mothers than adolescents with authoritarian, neglectful or indulgent mothers.

Drs. Hart, Coates and Smith-Bynum suggest that clinicians work with African-American mothers to find a balance between providing warmth and discipline in their relationships with their adolescent children. Additionally, because the data suggests that higher incomes allow African American mothers to have more nurturing and structured parenting styles, the researchers suggest that policymakers work to reduce the racial wage gap. 

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