Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 43, Issue 11, pp 1877–1889 | Cite as

Mothers’ and Fathers’ Autonomy-Relevant Parenting: Longitudinal Links with Adolescents’ Externalizing and Internalizing Behavior

  • Jennifer E. LansfordEmail author
  • Robert D. Laird
  • Gregory S. Pettit
  • John E. Bates
  • Kenneth A. Dodge
Empirical Research


The goal of this study was to advance the understanding of separate and joint effects of mothers’ and fathers’ autonomy-relevant parenting during early and middle adolescence. In a sample of 518 families, adolescents (49 % female; 83 % European American, 16 % African American, 1 % other ethnic groups) reported on their mothers’ and fathers’ psychological control and knowledge about adolescents’ whereabouts, friends, and activities at ages 13 and 16. Mothers and adolescents reported on adolescents’ externalizing and internalizing behaviors at ages 12, 14, 15, and 17. Adolescents perceived their mothers as using more psychological control and having more knowledge than their fathers, but there was moderate concordance between adolescents’ perceptions of their mothers and fathers. More parental psychological control predicted increases in boys’ and girls’ internalizing problems and girls’ externalizing problems. More parental knowledge predicted decreases in boys’ externalizing and internalizing problems. The perceived levels of behavior of mothers and fathers did not interact with one another in predicting adolescent adjustment. The results generalize across early and late adolescence and across mothers’ and adolescents’ reports of behavior problems. Autonomy-relevant mothering and fathering predict changes in behavior problems during early and late adolescence, but only autonomy-relevant fathering accounts for unique variance in adolescent behavior problems.


Externalizing Internalizing Father Mother Parental knowledge Psychological control 



The Child Development Project has been funded by grants MH56961, MH57024, and MH57095 from the National Institute of Mental Health, HD30572 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and DA016903 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Kenneth A. Dodge is supported by Senior Scientist award 2K05 DA015226 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. We are grateful to the individuals who have participated in this research.

Author contributions

JEL conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination, and drafted parts of the manuscript; RDL contributed to the conceptualization of the study, participated in the design and interpretation of the data, performed the statistical analyses, and drafted parts of the manuscript; GSP, JEB, and KAD participated in the design and coordination of the study and provided constructive feedback on drafts of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jennifer E. Lansford
    • 1
    Email author
  • Robert D. Laird
    • 2
  • Gregory S. Pettit
    • 3
  • John E. Bates
    • 4
  • Kenneth A. Dodge
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Child and Family PolicyDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  2. 2.University of New OrleansNew OrleansUSA
  3. 3.Auburn UniversityAuburnUSA
  4. 4.Indiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

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