Adolescents’ willingness to share information with parents is a central process through which parents gain knowledge of their adolescents’ lives. This paper addresses four questions important to understanding adolescents’ decisions to voluntarily disclose areas of parent-adolescent disagreement: What are the contribution of parent-adolescent agreement and adolescents’ non-disclosure of disagreement to adolescents’ perceptions of parental knowledge?; Which adolescents are most likely to disclose to parents in case of disagreement?; Under what conditions are adolescents more or less likely to disclose disagreement?; and What type of non-disclosure will different adolescents use and under what conditions? Self-report data from 120 adolescents (M age=15.8) revealed that failure to disclose disagreement, but not overall agreement, predicted perceived parental knowledge. Adolescents from authoritative homes and those less involved in disapproved leisure were more likely to disclose disagreement and less likely to lie. Within-person differences in disclosure were predicted by the presence of explicit rules and adolescents’ beliefs about required obedience.
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We gratefully acknowledge the work of Ian Burns, Katherine Hames, Kristen Jacobson, Teru Toyakawa, and the many undergraduate students involved in collecting, coding, and cleaning these data. We would like to express our gratitude to the adolescents who were interviewed for this project. Data collection was supported by a grant from College of Health and Human Development, the Pennsylvania State University.
Dr. Darling is a developmental psychologist whose research focuses on social relationships during adolescence, with a special interest in contextual variation in developmental processes. Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Darling at
Dr. Cumsille is a developmental methodologist whose research focuses on adolescent well-being.
Dr. Caldwell's research focuses on the experience of adolescent leisure, with a particular interest in adolescent boredom and well-being.
Dr. Dowdy is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent social relations.
Issues rated in Strategic Disclosure Card Sort.
The type of TV shows or videos you watch
Where you go with your friends
Going to a movie alone with a boyfriend or girlfriend
Having friends over when parents aren't home
The type of movies you can go to
What chores you do
What you do after school
Who your friends are
How much time you spend with your friends
Talking on the phone with your boyfriend/girlfriend
What you do after dinner
Who you can date
Going to a friend's house when their parents aren't home
Where you can go with your boyfriend/girlfriend
How much time you spend on the telephone
The kind of clothes you wear when you go out
Seeing a friend whom parents do not like
Going to parties
When you can start dating
How you spend your time when your parents aren't home
How you spend your money
What time you come home
Riding in cars with teenage drivers
Going places with your family
Going to parties where there aren't any adults present
What you do on weekends
How much time you can spend with your boyfriend/girlfriend
Inviting a boyfriend or girlfriend over when your parents are away
The grades you need to get
What music you listen to
Having a party when parents are away
Joining a club or activity
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Darling, N., Cumsille, P., Caldwell, L.L. et al. Predictors of Adolescents’ Disclosure to Parents and Perceived Parental Knowledge: Between- and Within-Person Differences. J Youth Adolescence 35, 659–670 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-006-9058-1
- parent-child relations
- parent-adolescent communication