Parents concerned about losing touch with their children as the teen years approach may take some encouragement from a new study indicating that young teens can spend more time with their parents.
The study at Pennsylvania State University tracked nearly 200 families and found that kids in early adolescence spent increasing amounts of one-on-one time with parents and that this only began to change from the age of 15.
The study also found that the period during which teens spent extra time with the fathers can be very productive, particularly in boosting self-esteem and social skills.
Director of the Social Science Research Institute at Penn State, Susan McHale told CNN:
“The stereotype that teenagers spend all their time holed up in their rooms or hanging out with friends is, indeed, just a stereotype. Our research shows that, well into the adolescent years, teens continue to spend time with their parents and that this shared time, especially shared time with fathers, has important implications for adolescents’ psychological and social adjustment.”
The research was carried out over a period of seven years and looked at families with at least two children.
“It’s very rare to have longitudinal data over such a long period of time for four members of a family,” said the Dean of Penn State’s College of Health and Human Development, Ann Crouter.
“It takes an incredible amount of time and effort to mount a study of this kind.”
The study, published in the journal Child Development, looked at families from almost exclusively European American, working- and middle-class families living in small cities, towns, and rural communities.
The study points out that many other studies have found benefits for kids who spend more time with their families, such as fewer delinquent behaviours and less likelihood of giving in to peer pressure.
The study says that the feeling of self worth that is experienced by kids whose fathers spend one-on-one time with them may be due to the fact that their fathers go beyond social expectations to devote undivided attention to them.
It also says that time with dad often involves “joking, teasing, and other playful interactions,” that does not occur with mum. Greater “peer-like interaction” with children, is “crucial for youth social development”.
“This doesn’t mean that mothers aren’t important!” McHale said. “The youth in this sample were in general well-adjusted, suggesting that there were good things going on in their families on the whole.”
Another study found that children who spend more one-on-one time with their mothers had lower levels of depression – something that was not correlated with extra time with fathers.