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Investigating the interplay between parenting dimensions and styles, and the association with adolescent outcomes

Abstract

Research has indicated that a strictly dimensional or parental style approach does not capture the full complexity of parenting. To better understand this complexity, the current study combined these two approaches using a novel statistical technique, i.e., subspace K-means clustering. Four objectives were addressed. First, the study tried to identify meaningful groups of parents in longitudinal adolescent reports on parenting behaviour. Second, the dimensional structure of every cluster was inspected to uncover differences in parenting between and within clusters. Third, the parenting styles were compared on several adolescent characteristics. Fourth, to examine the impact of change in parenting style over time, we looked at the cluster membership over time. Longitudinal questionnaire data were collected at three annual waves, with 1,116 adolescents (mean age = 13.79 years) at wave 1. Based on five parenting dimensions (support and proactive, punitive, psychological and harsh control), subspace K-means clustering, analysed per wave separately, identified two clusters (authoritative and authoritarian parenting) in which parenting dimensions were interrelated differently. Authoritative parenting seemed to be beneficial for adolescent development (less externalising problem behaviour and higher self-concept). Longitudinal data revealed several parenting group trajectories which showed differential relations with adolescent outcomes. Change in membership from the authoritative cluster to the authoritarian cluster was associated with a decrease in self-concept and an increase in externalising problem behaviour, whereas changes from the authoritarian cluster to the authoritative cluster were associated with an increase in self-concept and a decrease in externalising problem behaviour.

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Funding

This study, Studying Transactions in Adolescence: Testing Genes in Interaction With Environments (STRATEGIES) was funded by the Research Council KU Leuven (GOA/12/009).

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Correspondence to Filip Calders.

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Written informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study, as well as from a parent or legal guardian of each participating child.

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All procedures involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Approval for the study was obtained from the Institutional Review Board of the Faculty of Medicine at KU Leuven (ML7972).

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Calders, F., Bijttebier, P., Bosmans, G. et al. Investigating the interplay between parenting dimensions and styles, and the association with adolescent outcomes. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 29, 327–342 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00787-019-01349-x

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Keywords

  • Parenting
  • Adolescence
  • Subspace K-means clustering
  • Externalising problems
  • Self-concept