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Optimism as a mediator of the relation between perceived parental authoritativeness

and adjustment among adolescents: Finding the sunny side of the street

Lynne M. Jackson
King's University College
Michael W. Pratt, Bruce Hunsberger & S. Mark Pancer
Wilfrid Laurier University

Published in 'Social Development', 14(2), 273-304, 2005

This paper presents two longitudinal studies investigating the relationship between authoritative parenting and adolescents' adjustment and whether or not this is mediated by adolescents' dispositional optimism.  The researchers highlight evidence to suggest that authoritative parents demonstrate a more positive approach to their parental role and are inclined to be more optimistic.  They exert a high degree of control over their children but are also responsive, child-centred, and respectful of their children's thoughts, feelings, and participation in decision-making.  They tend to focus on the positive potential of their children more so than less authoritative parents therefore children and adolescents may learn from their parent's optimistic approach thus developing higher levels of optimism throughout childhood.  Participants who took part in the study were students planning to attend a university in Ontario, Canada soon after high school.  This period was chosen by the researchers as the transition to university is considered to be a significant life event that is often experienced as challenging by students.

Study 1
Data was analysed from 107 students (77 females, 30 males) who were the average age of 19 years.  Questionnaires were distributed through the mail just before they started university and then during their first, second and fourth years.  Self-esteem, depression, and optimism were measured in addition to personal and academic adjustment, and perceived parental authoritativeness (i.e. warm but strict).  The findings suggested that perceived parental authoritativeness predicted more effective adjustment during the participants' time at university and this was mediated by their levels of optimism.  The researchers therefore suggest that parenting style influences healthy personal adjustment thus promoting a more optimistic approach to life events.  Moreover, participants' perceptions that their parents were authoritative appeared to predict increased self-esteem and decreased depression.

Study 2
Data was collected from high school students during the period 1997 to 2003 and followed participants from the age of 17 to 23, which is considered to be an important period of development.288 participants completed the full study, with the majority being female (n = 210).  Questionnaires included measures of optimism, social support, depression, self-esteem, parenting style, family functioning, family and peer interactions, and identity status.  The findings indicated that perceived parental authoritativeness was positively associated with better adjustment and higher educational achievement.  Those who perceived their parents to be authoritative at age 17 also reported increased levels of self-esteem, lower depression, and more years higher education at the age of 23.  Furthermore, the relationships between parenting style and higher self-esteem and lower depression were mediated by the participant's levels of optimism.  Optimism appeared to more powerfully linked to personal and social adjustment rather than academic achievement.

Overall, the researchers suggest that positive parenting gives rise to good adjustment, which has a knock-on effect on the development of optimism

Read abstract LINK

 
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