Maternal Acceptance and Adolescents’ Emotional Communication: A Longitudinal Study
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- Hare, A.L., Marston, E.G. & Allen, J.P. J Youth Adolescence (2011) 40: 744. doi:10.1007/s10964-010-9586-6
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With substantive evidence suggesting that adolescents’ disclosure is likely a protective factor against problem behaviors, as well as evidence that many adolescents will go to great lengths to avoid sharing information with parents, one may conclude that parents’ face a formidable task. Previous studies have identified parental acceptance as a concurrent correlate of adolescents’ behavioral disclosure, but have neglected to investigate potential ways that parents could encourage their adolescents to feel comfortable disclosing emotional information. The present study extends the literature by using a longitudinal, multi-method, multi-reporter design to examine whether maternal acceptance is predictive of emotional disclosure over time among a racially/socioeconomically diverse sample of 184 adolescents (53% female). Results indicate that adolescents who perceive their mothers as high in acceptance during early adolescence exhibit greater relative increases in both self-reported emotional communication and observed emotional disclosure to their mothers 3 years later. Interestingly, mothers’ perceptions of their own acceptance does not provide any additional predictive value. These findings support the notion that adolescents’ emotional disclosure is an ongoing process that can be fostered in early adolescence, and emphasize the importance of considering adolescents’ perceptions of the relationship to successfully do so.