Study: Parents’ Expectations Can Influence Risky Teen Behavior

Research Summary

The more parents expect their teens to engage in risky behaviors such as drinking and using drugs, the more likely their teens are to follow through with those behaviors, Reuters reported Oct. 16.
Researchers found that adolescents with mothers who expected them to be more rebellious and take greater risks reported higher levels of risky behavior than other adolescents during follow-up surveys.
On the other hand, parents may lower the rate of risky behavior among their adolescent children by expecting that they can resist negative peer pressure and instead engage in positive behavior, according to the study. 
“Parents who believe they are simply being realistic might actually contribute to a self-fulfilling prophecy,” said study author and Wake Forest University psychology professor Christy Buchanan. “By thinking risk-taking or rebelliousness is normal for teenagers and conveying that to their children, parents might add to other messages from society that make teenagers feel abnormal if they are not willing to take risks or break laws.”
The study’s recommendations for parents included modeling good behavior for their teens, exposing them to examples of positive things that other teens are doing, and making sure their teens know there are consequences to risky behavior. 
The study was based on surveys of more than 200 6th- and 7th-graders and their mothers.

Source: Journal of Research on Adolescence. June 2009

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