Parents who have a stable romantic relationships with their spouse (or partner) tend more than other parents to set rules limiting teen dating: curfews, minimum ages for dating, limits on places teens can go and explicit rules against sexual activity, says a new study of 169 parents and 102 teens. Stephanie Madsen, the academic who carried out the research, says the reason isn’t clear but she suggests the parents may be generally more conservative. Ironically, this may drive teenage lovers closer together, she says.

Parents who are unhappy, however, go beyond setting limits and try to dictate how their teens treat their dates, giving instructions, for example, about acting “like a gentleman” (or Lady) or not letting a date “walk all over” them. The goal may be to launch their teens on a romantic path happier than their own, Says Madsen. But kids often regards this advice as intrusive and it also tends to have the opposite effect.

A better approach, says Madsen, is to emphasise constant, warm oversight of teens over just setting rules. This approach means keeping up a constant flow of communication without intruding too much. This involves asking teens to disclose plans, check in by phone and inform parents when plans change. In such cases, the adults are focusing ontheir roles as parents rather than their own love lives, according to Madsen. These parents also had the healthiest relationships with their children. ~ Wall Street Journal, June 27

Jack Valero is the Communications Director of Opus Dei in Britain. He is also Coordinator for Catholic Voices, a group of Catholics trained to speak to the media about Catholic issues...