Skip to main content

How the Rich Get Riskier: Parenting and Higher-SES Emerging Adults' Risk Behaviors

Abstract

Many parents continue to parent their emerging-adult children, but what becomes developmentally appropriate for such children differs from that of earlier ages. In addition, culture and context shape parenting and in turn child outcomes. Among an adolescent sample, higher-SES youth engage in higher levels of risk behaviors to manage the pressures they face from trying to live up to their parents’ high expectations for achievement compared to low- and middle-SES youth. Researchers have not yet examined the role of SES on emerging adults’ likelihood of engaging in risk behaviors in response to controlling parenting. Therefore, the current study explored the role of SES on the associations among emerging adults’ perceptions of their parents’ parenting behaviors (i.e., behavioral control, psychological control, and helicopter parenting) and change in their own risk behaviors. Undergraduate students (N = 551; Mage = 19.87, SD = 2.00; 60.6% women; 61% European American; 28.6% higher-SES) from four universities throughout the U.S. completed both waves of the study. Participants completed scales on each of their parents’ behavioral control, psychological control, and helicopter parenting, as well as a self-report measure of their own engagement in risk behaviors. Results indicated that maternal and paternal psychological control were associated positively with change in risk behaviors. Additionally, maternal and paternal behavioral control were associated with greater change in risk behaviors for higher-SES, but not lower-SES emerging adults. The findings provide new insights into the role of SES on the differential influence of parental behavioral control, psychological control, and helicopter parenting on change in emerging adults’ risk behaviors.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Andrews, J. A., & Westling, E. (2014). Substance use in emerging adulthood. In J. J. Arnett (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of emerging adulthood (pp. 521–542). New York, NY: Oxford University.

    Google Scholar 

  • Arnett, J. J. (2000). Emerging adulthood: A theory from the late teens through the twenties. American Psychologist, 55(5), 469–480. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.55.5.469.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Arnett, J. J. (2004). Emerging adulthood: The winding road from the late teens through the twenties. New York, NY: Oxford University.

    Google Scholar 

  • Arnett, J. J. (2014). Presidential address: The emergence of emerging adulthood: A personal history. Emerging Adulthood, 2(3), 155–162. https://doi.org/10.1177/2167696814541096.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Aunola, K., Stattin, H., & Nurmi, J. E. (2000). Parenting styles and adolescents’ achievement strategies. Journal of Adolescence, 23, 205–222. https://doi.org/10.1006/jado.2000.0308.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Barber, B. K. (1996). Parental psychological control: Revisiting a neglected construct. Child Development, 67(6), 3296–3319. https://doi.org/10.2307/1131780.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Barber, B. K., & Harmon, E. L. (2002). Violating the self: Parental psychological control of children and adolescents. In B. K. Barber (Ed.), Psychological control of children and adolescents (pp. 15–52). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bean, R. A., Barber, B. K., & Crane, D. R. (2006). Parental support, behavioral control, and psychological control among African American youth: The relationships to academic grades, delinquency, and depression. Journal of Family Issues, 27, 1335–1355. https://doi.org/10.1177/0192513X06289649.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bőgels, S. M., & Brechman-Toussaint, M. L. (2006). Family issues in child anxiety: Attachment, family functioning, parental rearing and beliefs. Clinical Psychology Review, 26, 834–856. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2005.08.001.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Calhoun, B. H., Maggs, J. L., & Loken, E. (2018). Change in college students’ perceived parental permissibility of alcohol use and its relation to college drinking. Addictive Behaviors, 76(275), 280. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2017.08.025.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • U.S. Census Bureau (2010). Income, poverty, and health insurance Coverage in the United States: 2009. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2010/demo/p60-238.html.

  • Cheung, G. W., & Rensvold, R. B. (2002). Evaluating goodness-of-fit indexes for testing measurement invariance. Structural Equation Modeling, 9(2), 233–255. https://doi.org/10.1207/S15328007SEM0902_5.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cooney, R. S., & Nonnamaker, J. B. (1992). Alcohol behavior: Commuting versus resident students. Journal of College Student Development, 33(5), 395–402. Retrieved from https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1993-19555-001.

  • DiClemente, R., Hansen, W., & Ponton, L. (1996). Adolescents at risk: A generation in jeopardy. In R. DiClemente, W. Hansen, & L. Ponton (Eds.), Handbook of adolescent health risk behavior (pp. 1–4). New York, NY: Plenum.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Fingerman, K. L., Cheng, Y., Tighe, L., Birditt, K. S., & Zarit, S. (2012). Relationships between young adults and their parents. In A. Booth, S. L. Brown, N. Landale, W. Manning, & S. M. McHale (Eds.), Early adulthood in a family context (pp. 59–85). New York, NY: Springer.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Grolnick, W. S. (2003). The psychological of parental control: How well-meant parenting backfires. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hanson, M. D., & Chen, E. (2007). Socioeconomic status and substance use behaviors in adolescents: The role of family resources versus family social status. Journal of Health Psychology, 12(1), 32–35. https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105306069073.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hart, C. H., Newell, L. D., & Olsen, S. F. (2003). Parenting skills and social-communicative competence in childhood. In J. O. Greene & B. R. Burleson (Eds.), Handbook of communication and social interaction skills (pp. 753–797). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  • Heath, N. L., Toste, J. R., Nedecheva, T., & Charlebois, A. (2008). An examination of nonsuicidal self-injury among college students. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 30, 137–156. https://doi.org/10.17744/mehc.30.2.8p879p3443514678.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hingson, R., & Kenkel, D. (2004). Social, health, and economic consequences of underage drinking. In R. J. Bonnie, & M. E. O’Connell (Eds.), Reducing underage drinking: A collective responsibility (pp. 351–382). Washington, DC: National Academic Press.

  • Kerr, M., & Stattin, H. (2000). What parents know, how they know it, and several forms of adolescent adjustment: Further support for a reinterpretation of monitoring. Developmental Psychology, 36, 366–380. https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-1649.36.3.366.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kimpara, S., Wong, J., & Chau, K. (2014). Cross-cultural considerations with Chinese American clients: A perspective on psychological assessment. In L. T. Benuto, N. S. Thaler, & B. D. Leany (Eds.), Guide to psychological assessment with Asians (pp. 7–26). New York: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kline, R. B. (2005). Principles and practice of structural equation modeling (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kouros, C. D., Pruitt, M., Ekas, N., Kiriaki, R., & Sunderland, M. (2016). Helicopter parenting, autonomy support, and college students’ mental health and well-being: The moderating role of sex and ethnicity. Journal of Child and Family Studies. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-016-0614-3.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Leftkowitz, E. S., & Gillen, M. M. (2006). “Sex is just a normal part of life”: Sexuality in emerging adulthood. In J. J. Arnett & J. L. Tanner (Eds.), Emerging adults in America: Coming of age in the 21st century (pp. 235–256). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • LeMoyne, T., & Buchanan, T. (2011). Does “hovering” matter? Helicopter parenting and its effect on well-being. Sociological Spectrum, 31(4), 399–418. https://doi.org/10.1080/02732173.2011.574038.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lien, N., Friestad, C., & Klepp, K. (2001). Adolescents’ proxy reports of parents’ socioeconomic status: How valid are they? Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 55(10), 731–737. https://doi.org/10.1136/jech.55.10.731.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Little, T. D. (2013). Longitudinal structural equation modeling. New York, NY: Guilford.

    Google Scholar 

  • Little, M., & Seay, D. (2014). By-gender risk paths of parental psychological control effects on emerging adult overt and relational aggression. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 31, 1–28. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407513517808.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Little, T. D., Bovaird, J. A., & Card, N. A. (Eds.). (2012). Modeling contextual effects in longitudinal studies. New York, NY: Psychology Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Luthar, S. S. (2003). The culture of affluence: Psychological costs of material wealth. Child Development, 74, 1581–1593. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1467-8624.2003.00625.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Luthar, S. S., & Ansary, N. S. (2005). Dimensions of adolescent rebellion: Risks for academic failure among high- and low-income youth. Development and Psychopathology, 17(1), 231–250. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954579405050121.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Luthar, S. S., & Becker, B. E. (2002). Privileged but pressured: A study of affluent youth. Child Development, 73, 1593–2110. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8624.00492.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Luthar, S. S., & D'Avanzo, K. (1999). Contextual factors in substance use: A study of suburban and inner-city adolescents. Development and Psychopathology, 11, 845–867. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954579499002357.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Luthar, S. S., & Latendresse, S. J. (2005a). Children of the affluent: Challenges to well-being. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14, 49–53. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0963-7214.2005.00333.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Luthar, S. S., & Latendresse, S. J. (2005b). Comparable “risks” at the socioeconomic status extremes: Preadolescents’ perceptions of parenting. Developmental Psychopathology, 17(1), 207–230. https://doi.org/10.1017/S095457940505011.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Luthar, S. S., Small, P. J., & Ciciolla, L. (2017). Adolescents from upper middle class communities: Substance misuse and addiction across early adulthood. Development and Psychopathology, 30(1), 315–335. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954579417000645.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • McMahon, T. J., & Luthar, S. S. (2006). Patterns and correlates of substance use among affluent, suburban high school students. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 35, 72–89. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15374424jccp3501_7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nelson, L. J., & Barry, C. M. (2005). Distinguishing features of emerging adulthood: The role of self-classification as an adult. Journal of Adolescent Research, 20, 242–262. https://doi.org/10.1177/0743558404273074.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nelson, L. J., & Padilla-Walker, L. M. (2013). Flourishing and floundering in emerging adult college students. Emerging Adulthood, 1(1), 67–78. https://doi.org/10.1177/2167696812470938.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nelson, L. J., Padilla-Walker, L. M., Carroll, J. S., Madsen, S. D., Barry, C. M., & Badger, S. (2007). ‘If you want me to treat you like an adult, start acting like one!’ Comparing the criteria that emerging adults and their parents have for adulthood. Journal of Family Psychology, 21(4), 665–674. https://doi.org/10.1037/0893-3200.21.4.665.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nelson, L. J., Padilla-Walker, L. M., Carroll, J. S., Willoughby, B. J., Barry, C. M., & Madsen, S. D. (2010). Project READY: Researching emerging adults’ developmental years: Codebook Wave, 1, 2009–2010.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nelson, L. J., Padilla-Walker, L. M., Christensen, K. J., Evans, C. A., & Carroll, J. S. (2011). Parenting in emerging adulthood: An examination of parenting clusters and correlates. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 40(6), 730–743. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-010-9584-8.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Oudekerk, B. A., Allen, J. P., Hafen, C. A., Hessel, E. T., Szwedo, D. E., & Spilker, A. (2013). Maternal and paternal psychological control as moderators of the link between peer attitudes and adolescents’ risky sexual behavior. Journal of Early Adolescence, 34, 413–435. https://doi.org/10.1177/0272431613494007.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Padilla-Walker, L. M., & Nelson, L. J. (2012). Black hawk down?: Establishing helicopter parenting as a distinct construct from other forms of parental control during emerging adulthood. Journal of Adolescence, 35, 1177–1190. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2012.03.007.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Patrick, M. E., Wightman, P., Schoeni, R. F., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2012). Socioeconomic status and substance use among young adults: A comparison across constructs and drugs. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 73(5), 772–782. https://doi.org/10.15288/jsad.2012.73.772.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pettit, G. S., Laird, R. D., Dodge, K. A., Bates, J. E., & Criss, M. M. (2001). Antecedents and behavior-problem outcomes of parental monitoring and psychological control in early adolescence. Child Development, 72, 583–598. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8624.00298.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Romm, K. F., & Metzger, A. (2018). Parental psychological control and adolescent problem behaviors: The role of depressive symptoms. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 27, 2206–2216. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-018-1064-x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Romm, K. F., Barry, C. M., Kotchick, B. A., DiDonato, T. E., & Barnett, J. E. (2018). Parental psychological control and identity: The roles of warmth, gender, and ethnicity. Journal of Adult Development. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10804-018-9303-3.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schiffirin, H. H., Liss, M., Miles-McLean, H., Geary, K. A., Erchull, M. J., & Tasher, T. (2014). Helping or hovering? The effects of helicopter parenting on college students’ well-being. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 23, 548–557. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-013-9716-3.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schulenberg, J., & Maggs, J. L. (2001). A developmental perspective on alcohol use and heavy drinking during adolescence and the transition to adulthood. Washington, DC: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shek, D. T. L., & Law, M. Y. M. (2014). Parental behavioral control, parental psychological control, and the parent-child relational qualities: Relationships to Chinese adolescent risk behavior. In D. T. L. Shek & R. C. F. Sun (Eds.), Chinese Aaolescents in Hong Kong: Family life, psychological well-being, and risk behavior (pp. 51–69). Singapore: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Simpson, D. B., & Burnett, D. (2017). Commuters versus residents: The effects of living arrangements and student engagement on academic performance. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory, and Practice. https://doi.org/10.1177/1521025117707516.

  • Tanner, J. L. (2006). Recentering during emerging adulthood: A critical turning point in life span human development. In J. J. Arnett & J. L. Tanner (Eds.), Emerging adults in America: Coming of age in the 21st century (pp. 21–55). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Tucker, J. S., Ellickson, P. L., Orlando, M., Martino, S. C., & Klein, D. J. (2005). Substance use trajectories from early adolescence to emerging adulthood: A comparison of smoking, binge drinking, and marijuana use. Journal of Drug Issues, 35(2), 307–331. https://doi.org/10.1177/002204260503500205.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Urry, S., Nelson, L. J., & Padilla-Walker, L. M. (2011). Mother knows best: Psychological control, child disclosure, and maternal knowledge in emerging adulthood. Journal of Family Studies, 17, 157–173. https://doi.org/10.5172/jfs.2011.17.2.157.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wang, Y. C. (2014). In search of the Confucian family: Interviews with parents and their middle school children in Guangzhou, China. Journal of Adolescent Research, 29, 765–782. https://doi.org/10.1177/0743558414538318.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Waterman, E. A., & Lefkowitz, E. S. (2017). Are mothers’ and fathers’ parenting characteristics associated with emerging adults’ academic engagement? Journal of Family Issues, 38(9), 1239–1261. https://doi.org/10.1177/0192513X16637101.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Weininger, E. B., Lareau, A., & Conley, D. (2015). What money doesn’t buy: Class resources and children’s participation in organized extracurricular activities. Social Forces, 94(2), 479–503. https://doi.org/10.1093/sf/sov071.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Funding

This research was supported via funding through the Family Studies Center at Brigham Young University.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

CMB and KR conceived of the study. KR wrote the introduction, methods, and discussion sections of the paper. CMB made substantial intellectual and conceptual contributions to the design of the project, collaborated with the writing of the paper, and edited the final manuscript. LA conducted statistical analyses and wrote the results section of the paper.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Katelyn F. Romm.

Ethics declarations

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

The current study was approved by the Institutional Review Board at Brigham Young University, University of California—Davis, Kansas State University, Louisiana State University, and Loyola University Maryland.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. All participating youth gave informed consent prior to their participation.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Romm, K.F., Barry, C.M. & Alvis, L.M. How the Rich Get Riskier: Parenting and Higher-SES Emerging Adults' Risk Behaviors. J Adult Dev 27, 281–293 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10804-020-09345-1

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10804-020-09345-1

Keywords

  • Parental control
  • SES
  • Emerging adults
  • Risk behaviors