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Parenting Strategies and Adolescents’ Cyberbullying Behaviors: Evidence from a Preregistered Study of Parent–Child Dyads

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Abstract

Little is known about how parents may protect against cyberbullying, a growing problem-behavior among youth. Guided by self-determination theory, a theory concerned with effectively motivating and regulating behavior, six preregistered hypotheses concerning parenting strategies of regulating cyberbullying behavior were tested in 1004 parent–child dyads (45.9% female adolescents; adolescents were either 14 (49.5%) or 15 (50.5%) years old). The results largely supported hypotheses: Parents who used more autonomy-supportive strategies—understanding the adolescent’s perspective, offering choice, and giving rationales for prohibitions—had adolescents who reported engaging in less cyberbullying than parents who used controlling strategies (especially using guilt, shame, and conditional regard). Further, this was mediated by lower feelings of reactance to, or a desire to do the opposite of, parents’ requests. The discussion focuses on the limits of this study to investigate reciprocal effects of adolescent behavior shaping parenting strategies—a critical agenda for future research—as well as the potential benefits of interventions aimed at increasing parental autonomy support for reducing cyberbullying and other problem behaviors in adolescents.

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Notes

  1. In an exploratory manner, it was tested whether results of the preregistered analyses would hold when controlling for parents’ reported concern about their adolescent’s cyberbullying. This was done to explore the alternative hypothesis that parents who were aware of or concerned about their child engaging in cyberbullying became more controlling and less autonomy-supportive in their parenting style. Indeed, parent concern was a strong predictor of adolescents’ reports of their own cyberbullying behavior (r = .46), and to a lesser extent, it predicted less autonomy support from parents, r = -.17). Though parent concern significantly predicted both cyberbullying behavior and reactivity in adolescents, effects for autonomy-supportive and controlling parenting strategies remained the same in terms of their strength and direction in all models.

  2. Following the logic described in Footnote 1, exploratory analyses further controlled for parental concern about their adolescent’s cyberbullying (as concern predicted more parental use of shame/guilt, r = .11 and surprisingly, less use of punishment, r = −.09). Models showed that this control did not change the strength or direction of effects.

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Authors’ Contributions

N.L., N.W., and A.K.P. designed the project and the preregistration. N.L. drafted the manuscript and analyzed data. N.W. helped draft the manuscript. A.K.P. collected the data and gave feedback on the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Funding

This research was supported by a BA/Leverhulme Small Research Grant, number SG171197.

Data Sharing and Declaration

Data, preregistration, and materials are available publically. Data can be accessed here: https://osf.io/2hm7q/, Preregistration and materials can be accessed here: https://osf.io/zns95/

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Correspondence to Nicole Legate.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All study procedures were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all participants (both parents and adolescents) in the study.

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Legate, N., Weinstein, N. & Przybylski, A.K. Parenting Strategies and Adolescents’ Cyberbullying Behaviors: Evidence from a Preregistered Study of Parent–Child Dyads. J Youth Adolescence 48, 399–409 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-018-0962-y

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