Bidirectional Relation between Paternal/Maternal Psychological Control and Adolescent Behavioral Outcomes

  • Xinyuan Fu
  • Yan ZhangEmail author
Original Paper



Parental psychological control is considered a destructive form of parenting, which renders adolescents vulnerable to psychosocial maladjustment. Adolescent behavior might also in turn impact parental psychological control, which is, as yet, much less known. Nevertheless, few studies so far on parental psychological control have examined the paternal and maternal dimensions independently. Therefore, the present study aims to examine the longitudinally bidirectional relation between paternal/maternal psychological control and adolescent behavioral outcomes.


A total of 434 Chinese adolescents participated at two time points approximately one year apart. At each time point, the participants completed a questionnaire containing measurements of paternal/maternal psychological control, prosocial behavior toward family, friends, and strangers, academic achievement, and demographic information. A cross-lagged model was conducted to test the hypotheses, and good model fit was reached, χ2 (2750) = 4294.45, p < 0.001, CFI = 0.92, TLI = 0.91, RMSEA = 0.04, SRMR = 0.06.


The main results showed that maternal psychological control was negatively predictive of subsequent prosocial behavior toward friends and strangers, but not toward family or academic achievement, and adolescent academic achievement was longitudinally and negatively related to both paternal and maternal psychological control.


The findings support the transactional model of development, which indicates that parenting is changing and also being changed by adolescent behavior. The discussion focuses on understanding the dynamic interplay between parental psychological control and adolescent behavioral outcomes.


Psychological control Prosocial behavior Academic achievement Cross-lagged model 



The authors thank Rong Guo who spent valuable hours conducting the research and helping with the first draft of this article, and those students who participated in our research.

Author Contributions

X.F.: designed and executed the study, conducted the data analyses, wrote the originally submitted manuscript, and revised the method and results section. Y.Z.: revised the introduction and discussion thoroughly, and provided point-by-point responses to the comments of the editor and reviewers.


This research was supported by 2017 Beijing Social Science Fund (17JYC017): “Psychological Causes and Prevention of School Bullying in Beijing”, Beijing Education Science “13th Five-Year Plan” 2018 Annual Project (BCEA18049): “Influence of Prosocial Behavior on Middle School Students’ Sense of Attainment and Promotion Strategy in Beijing”, Project of Humanities and Social Sciences from Ministry of Education in China (19YJC190029): ‘The Impact from Materialistic Values to Morality and the Exploration on Underlying Mechanism’, and Research Fund for Junior Faculty in Human and Social Science from Shenzhen University (QNFC1903): ‘College Students’ Social Media Use and the Impact on Social Adaption and Online Social Participation’.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All research procedures met the ethical guidelines of American Psychological Association and were approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at Central University of Finance and Economics.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all participants’ parents.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, School of Sociology and PsychologyCentral University of Finance and EconomicsBeijingChina
  2. 2.Department of Advertising, School of Media of CommunicationShenzhen UniversityShenzhenChina

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