Parenting in Emerging Adulthood: An Examination of Parenting Clusters and Correlates

Abstract

The changing nature of the transition to adulthood in western societies, such as the United States, may be extending the length of time parents are engaged in “parenting” activities. However, little is known about different approaches parents take in their interactions with their emerging-adult children. Hence, this study attempted to identify different clusters of parents based on the extent to which they exhibited both extremes of control (psychological control, punishment, verbal hostility, indulgence) and responsiveness (knowledge, warmth, induction, autonomy granting), and to examine how combinations of parenting were related to emerging adult children’s relational and individual outcomes (e.g. parent–child relationship quality, drinking, self-worth, depression). The data were collected from 403 emerging adults (M age = 19.89, SD = 1.78, range = 18–26, 62% female) and at least one of their parents (287 fathers and 317 mothers). Eighty-four percent of participants reported being European American, 6% Asian American, 4% African American, 3% Latino, and 4% reported being of other ethnicities. Data were analyzed using hierarchical cluster analysis, separately for mothers and fathers, and identified three similar clusters of parents which we labeled as uninvolved (low on all aspects of parenting), controlling-indulgent (high on both extremes of control and low on all aspects of responsiveness), and authoritative (high on responsiveness and low on control). A fourth cluster was identified for both mothers and fathers and was labeled as inconsistent for mothers (mothers were above the mean on both extremes of control and on responsiveness) and average for fathers (fathers were at the mean on all eight aspects of parenting). The discussion focuses on how each of these clusters effectively distinguished between child outcomes.

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

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

References

  1. Applebaum, M. I., & McCall, R. B. (1983). Design and analysis in developmental psychology. In P.H. Mussen (Ed.), Handbook of child psychology (4th ed.), Vol. 1, W. Kessen (Volume Ed.), History, theory, and methods (pp. 415–471). New York: Wiley.

  2. Aquilino, W. S. (1996). The returning adult child and parental experience at midlife. In C. D. Ryff & M. M. Seltzer (Eds.), The parental experience in midlife (pp. 423–458). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Aquilino, W. S. (1997). From adolescent to young adult: A prospective study of parent–child relations during the transition to adulthood. Journal of Marriage & the Family, 59(3), 670–686.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Aquilino, W. S. (2006). Family relationships and support systems in emerging adulthood. In J. J. Arnett & J. L. Tanner (Eds.), Emerging adults in America: Coming of age in the 21st century (pp. 193–217). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Arnett, J. J. (2000). Emerging adulthood: A theory of development from the late teens through the twenties. American Psychologist, 55, 469–480.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

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

    Google Scholar 

  7. Arnett, J. J. (2006). Emerging adulthood: Understanding the new way of coming of age. In J. J. Arnett & J. L. Tanner (Eds.), Emerging adults in America: Coming of age in the 21st century (pp. 3–20). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Badger, S., Nelson, L. J., & Barry, C. M. (2006). Perceptions of the transition to adulthood among Chinese and American emerging adults. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 30, 84–93.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Barber, B. K. (1996). Parental psychological control: Revisiting a neglected construct. Child Development, 67, 3296–3319.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Barber, B. K., Olsen, J. E., & Shagle, S. C. (1994). Associations between parental psychological and behavioral control and youth internalized and externalized behaviors. Child Development, 65, 1120–1138.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Barnett, M., Quackenbush, S., & Sinisi, C. (1996). Factors affecting children’s, adolescents’, and young adults’ perceptions of parental discipline. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 157, 411–424.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Barry, C., Padilla-Walker, L., Madsen, S., & Nelson, L. (2008). The impact of maternal relationship quality on emerging adults’ prosocial tendencies: Indirect effects via regulation of prosocial values. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 37(5), 581–591.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Baumrind, D. (1967). Child care practices anteceding three patterns of preschool behavior. Genetic Psychology Monographs, 75, 43–88.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Baumrind, D. (1978). Reciprocal rights and responsibilities in parent-child relations. Journal of Social Issues, 34, 179–196.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Baumrind, D. (1991). Effective parenting during the early adolescent transition. In P. A. Cowan & E. M. Hetherington (Eds.), Family transitions (pp. 111–163). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Baumrind, D., & Black, A. E. (1967). Socialization practices associated with dimensions of competence in preschool boys and girls. Child Development, 38(2), 291–327.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Berzonsky, M. (2004). Identity style, parental authority, and identity commitment. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 33(3), 213–220.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Buchanan, C. M., Maccoby, E. E., & Dornbusch, S. M. (1991). Caught between parents: Adolescents’ experience in divorced homes. Child Development, 62, 1008–1029.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Buhl, H. (2007). Well-being and the child-parent relationship at the transition from university to work life. Journal of Adolescent Research, 22(5), 550–571.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Buri, J. R., Louiselle, P. A., & Misukanis, T. M. (1988). Effects of parental authoritarianism and authoritativeness of self-esteem. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 14, 271–282.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Carbery, J., & Buhrmester, D. (1998). Friendship and need fulfillment during three phases of young adulthood. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 15, 393–409.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Collins, W. A., Madsen, S. D., & Susman-Stillman, A. (2002). Parenting during middle childhood. In M. H. Bornstein (Ed.), Handbook of parenting: Vol. 1: Children and parenting (2nd ed., pp. 103–133). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Day, R. D., & Padilla-Walker, L. M. (2008). Mother and father connectedness and involvement during early adolescence. Manuscript submitted for publication.

  24. Dominguez, M., & Carton, J. (1997). The relationship between self-actualization and parenting style. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 24, 1093–1100.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Gomez, R., & McLaren, S. (2006). The association of avoidance coping style, and perceived mother and father support with anxiety/depression among late adolescents: Applicability of resiliency models. Personality and Individual Differences, 40(6), 1165–1176.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Hair, J. F., Jr., Anderson, R. E., Tatham, R. L., & Black, W. C. (1998). Multivariate data analysis (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Harrison, A. O., Wilson, M. N., Pine, C. J., Chan, S. Q., & Buriel, R. (1990). Family ecologies of ethnic minority children. Child Development, 61, 347–362.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 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: Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Hoff, E., Laursen, B., & Tardif, T. (2002). Socioeconomic status and parenting. In M. H. Bornstein (Ed.), Handbook of parenting: Vol. 2 Biology and ecology of parenting (pp. 231–254). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Kenny, M., & Sirin, S. (2006). Parental attachment, self-worth, and depressive symptoms among emerging adults. Journal of Counseling & Development, 84(1), 61–71.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Leaper, C. (2002). Parenting girls and boys. In M. H. Bornstein (Ed.), Handbook of parenting: Vol. 1: Children and parenting (2nd ed., pp. 189–226). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Leondari, A., & Kiosseoglou, G. (2002). Parental, psychological control and attachment in late adolescents and young adults. Psychological Reports, 90(3), 1015–1030.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Maccoby, E. E., & Martin, J. A. (1983). Socialization in the context of the family: Parent–child interaction. In P. H. Mussen (Ed.) & E. M. Hetherington (Vol. Ed.), Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 4. Socialization, personality, and social development (4th ed., pp. 1–101). New York: Wiley.

  34. Manzeske, D. P., & Stright, A. D. (2009). Parenting styles and emotion regulation: The role of behavioral and psychological control during young adulthood. Journal of Adult Development, 16, 223–229.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Masten, A. S., Burt, K. B., Roisman, G. I., Obradovic, J., Long, J. D., & Tellegen, A. (2004). Resources and resilience in the transition to adulthood: Continuity and change. Development & Psychopathology, 16, 1071–1094.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. McKinney, C., & Renk, K. (2008a). Differential parenting between mothers and fathers: Implications for late adolescents. Journal of Family Issues, 29(6), 806–827.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. McKinney, C., & Renk, K. (2008b). Multivariate models of parent-late adolescent gender dyads: The importance of parenting processes in predicting adjustment. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 39(2), 147–170.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Milligan, G. W., & Cooper, M. C. (1985). An examination of procedures determining the number of clusters in a data set. Psychometrika, 50, 159–179.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. National Center for Education Statistics. (2002). The condition of education, 2002. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education. Available: www.nces.gov.

  40. Neeman, J., & Harter, S. (1986). Manual for the self-perception profile for college students. Unpublished manuscript, University of Denver: Denver, CO.

  41. 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Nelson, L., Padilla-Walker, L., Carroll, J., Madsen, S., Barry, C., & 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.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Openshaw, D. K., Thomas, D. L., & Rollins, B. C. (1984). Parental influences of adolescent self-esteem. Journal of Early Adolescence, 4(3), 259–274.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Padilla-Walker, L., Nelson, L., Madsen, S., & Barry, C. (2008). The role of perceived parental knowledge on emerging adults’ risk behaviors. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 37(7), 847–859.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Patock-Peckham, J. A., & Morgan-Lopez, A. A. (2009). The gender specific meditational pathways between parenting styles, neuroticism, pathological reasons for drinking, and alcohol-related problems in emerging adulthood. Addictive Behaviors, 34, 312–315.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Pell Institute. (2004). Indicators of opportunity in higher education. Washington, D.C.: Pell Institute.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Roberts, W. L. (1986). Nonlinear models of development: An example from the socialization of competence. Child Development, 57, 1166–1178.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Robinson, C. C., Mandleco, B., Olsen, S. F., & Hart, C. H. (1995). Authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive parenting practices: Development of a new measure. Psychological Reports, 77, 819–830.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Rothbart, M. K., Ahadi, S. A., & Evans, D. E. (2000). Temperament and personality: Origins and outcomes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 122–135.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Rubin, K. H., Nelson, L. J., Hastings, P., & Asendorpf, J. (1999). The transaction between parents’ perceptions of their children’s shyness and their parenting styles. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 23, 937–957.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Russell, A. (1997). Individual and family factors contributing to mothers’ and fathers’ positive parenting. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 21, 111–132.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Schnaiberg, A., & Goldenberg, S. (1989). From empty nest to crowded nest: The dynamics of incompletely launched young adults. Social Problems, 36, 251–269.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Smits, I., Soenens, B., Luyckx, K., Duriez, B., Berzonsky, M., & Goossens, L. (2008). Perceived parenting dimensions and identity styles: Exploring the socialization of adolescents’ processing of identity-relevant information. Journal of Adolescence, 31(2), 151–164.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Steinberg, L., Blatt-Eisengart, I., & Cauffman, E. (2006). Patterns of competence and adjustment among adolescents from authoritative, authoritarian, indulgent, and neglectful homes: A replication in a sample of serious juvenile offenders. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 16, 47–58.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Steinberg, L., & Silk, J. S. (2002). Parenting adolescents. In M. H. Bornstein (Ed.), Handbook of parenting: Vol. 1: Children and parenting (2nd ed., pp. 103–133). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    Google Scholar 

  56. Taylor, R. L. (2000). Racial, ethnic, and cultural diversities in families. In D. H. Demo, K. R. Allen, & M. A. Fine (Eds.), Handbook of family diversity (pp. 232–251). New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  57. Tubman, J., & Lerner, R. (1994). Affective experiences of parents and their children from adolescence to young adulthood: Stability of affective experiences. Journal of Adolescence, 17, 81–98.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Turner, E. A., Chandler, M., & Heffer, R. W. (2009). The influence of parenting styles, achievement motivation, and self-efficacy on academic performance in college students. Journal of College Student Development, 50, 337–346.

    Google Scholar 

  59. Ward, J. H. (1963). Hierarchical grouping to optimize an objective function. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 58, 236–244.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. Whitbeck, L., Hoyt, D., & Huck, S. (1994). The effects of early family relationships on contemporary relationships and assistance patterns between adult children and their parents. Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 49, 85–94.

    Google Scholar 

  61. Willliam, T., & Grant Foundation commission on Work, Family, Citizenship. (1988). The forgotten half: Non-college-bound youth in America. Washington, DC: William T. Grant Foundation.

    Google Scholar 

  62. Wintre, M. G., & Yaffe, M. (2000). First-year students’ adjustment to university life as a function of relationships with parents. Journal of Adolescent Research, 15, 9–37.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

The authors would like to acknowledge Carolyn McNamara Barry and Stephanie Madsen for their extensive help on Project READY. The authors also express appreciation to the instructors and students at all Project READY data collection sites for their assistance. We are grateful for the grant support of the Family Studies Center at Brigham Young University.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Larry J. Nelson.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Nelson, L.J., Padilla-Walker, L.M., Christensen, K.J. et al. Parenting in Emerging Adulthood: An Examination of Parenting Clusters and Correlates. J Youth Adolescence 40, 730–743 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-010-9584-8

Download citation

Keywords

  • Parenting
  • Emerging adulthood
  • Parental responsiveness/control