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Developmental Changes in Secrecy During Middle Adolescence: Links with Alcohol Use and Perceived Controlling Parenting

Abstract

Adolescence is a developmental period characterized by fundamental transformations in parent–child communication. Although a normative shift in adolescents’ secrecy seems to occur in parallel to changes in their drinking behaviors and in their perceptions of the relationship with their parents, relatively little attention has been paid to their associations over time. The present longitudinal study examined the associations between developmental changes in adolescents’ secrecy, alcohol use, and perceptions of controlling parenting during middle adolescence, using a latent growth curve approach. At biannual intervals for two consecutive years, a sample of 473 Swiss adolescents (64.7% girls) beginning their last year of mandatory school (mean age at Time 1 = 14.96) completed self-report questionnaires about secrecy, alcohol use, and perceived controlling parenting. The results of the univariate models showed mean level increases in secrecy and alcohol use, but stable levels in controlling parenting over time. The results of a parallel-process model indicated that higher initial levels of secrecy were associated with higher initial levels of alcohol use and perceived controlling parenting, while an increase in secrecy was associated with an increase in alcohol use and an increase in perceived controlling parenting over time. In addition, adolescents who reported the lowest initial levels of perceived controlling parenting showed a greater increase in secrecy over time and those with high initial levels of secrecy reported a relative decrease in perceived controlling parenting. Finally, adolescents with the lowest initial levels of alcohol use experienced a greater increase in secrecy. Overall, these results indicate that the development of adolescents’ secrecy is associated with the development of their drinking habits and perceptions of family relationships in dynamic ways.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the adolescents and their parents who kindly accepted to participate in the study. We thank the principals of the schools and the Youth Department (Direction Générale de l’Enseignement Obligatoire, DGEO) of the Canton of Vaud in Switzerland. We are also grateful to Marlene Barbosa and Saskia Degli-Antoni for their valuable contribution to recruitment, organization and data collection, as well as the many research assistants for their help with data collection.

Authors’ Contributions

S.B. helped in the design and collection of data, analyzed and interpreted the data, and wrote the paper; S.V.P. helped in the design and collection of data, helped in the interpretation, and contributed to the writing of the manuscript; J.P.A. participated in the conception and design of the study, supervised and performed the statistical analysis, and helped in the interpretation and writing the manuscript; G.A.S. participated in the design, coordination and collection of data, and helped in the writing the manuscript; G.Z. conceived and designed the study, coordinated the project and helped in the writing of the article. All authors have read, edited and approved the final manuscript.

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This research was supported by a grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation (FNS no. 10014_156155).

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Correspondence to Sophie Baudat.

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Baudat, S., Van Petegem, S., Antonietti, JP. et al. Developmental Changes in Secrecy During Middle Adolescence: Links with Alcohol Use and Perceived Controlling Parenting. J Youth Adolescence 49, 1583–1600 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-020-01281-3

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Keywords

  • Adolescent secrecy
  • Alcohol use
  • Controlling parenting
  • Latent growth curve modeling