Mother And Son Bonds Influence Teen Behavior
August 31, 2011

Mother And Son Bonds Influence Teen Behavior


Researchers found that relationships between mothers and their sons change during childhood and adolescence, but not all relationships change the same way.

Researchers from Wayne State University, Oklahoma State University, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Montreal, and the University of Oregon looked at 265 mother-son pairs from low-income families during the study.

The team started to look at the boys when they were 5 and continued doing so through adolescence.  The families were taking part in the Pitt Mother & Child Project, which is an ongoing longitudinal project examining vulnerability and resilience in low-income boys.

The study looked at the family's neighborhood, the mother's relationship with her romantic partner, the quality of parenting provided by the mother, and the child's temperament.

Mothers of boys who had a difficult temperament when they were toddlers reported that their relationships with the boys included a lot of conflict and lower levels of closeness over time.

The researchers found that when mothers had better relationships with their significant others, they tended to form closer bonds with their sons that lasted throughout childhood and adolescence. 

The boys who experienced a lot of conflict with their mothers were more likely to engage in delinquent behavior as teens, while boys who had a close relationship with their mothers were more likely to have a better relationship with their best friends during the teen years.

"These results suggest that successfully adapting to the transitions of childhood and adolescence may require parents and children to maintain relatively high levels of closeness and minimize conflict in their relationships," Christopher Trentacosta, assistant professor of psychology at Wayne State University, the study's lead author, said in a press release.

"The findings also have implications for prevention and intervention," Trentacosta suggests. "Family-focused programs should address conflict in the parent-child relationship if the goal is to reduce delinquent behavior, and should foster greater closeness between parents and children if improving peer relationships is the goal."

The study was published in the journal Child Development.


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