A Critical Look at Parenting Research: An Examination and Contextualisation of Autonomy Supportive and Psychologically Controlling Parenting

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Duineveld, Jasper J
ACU Research Bank; Australian Catholic University
thesis / dissertation description
Parenting is critical to the healthy development of young people and has lifelong effects on important life outcomes (e.g., well-being, education, identity development). We already know a lot about parenting styles such as autonomy support and psychological control, and their importance in adolescents’ development, education, and well-being. Yet there are several outstanding questions about these parenting styles specifically – and parenting research in general – that must be addressed for the field to progress. This thesis investigated these unanswered questions:a) whether autonomy supportive and psychologically controlling parenting should be treated as two distinct constructs or two opposing sides of a single continuum;b) whether it is important to distinguish between report types (e.g., youth’s perception or parents’ perception of parenting) or report targets (e.g., maternal or paternal parenting) when measuring parenting; andc) how does context and developmental stage moderate the effects of parenting.Study 1 is a meta-analysis that investigated the relationship between autonomy supportive and psychologically controlling parenting (k = 50; #ES = 83; N = 31,979). The study considered whether variance in this relationship is moderated by developmental stage of the participants and varying approaches to measure parenting (i.e., report type and target). Study 2 is an empirical study that tested whether parenting responses are consistent regardless of variations in approaches to measurement. The study also considered whether parenting predicted well- and ill-being outcomes similarly across different measurement approaches. This was explored with a Finnish sample of adolescents (N = 214) and their parents (mothers, N = 142; fathers, N = 90) for the parenting styles autonomy support and psychological control. Study 3 expanded on Study 1 and 2 to test how maternal and paternal autonomy supportive parenting affects youth’s well- and ill-being. This empirical study used longitudinal Finnish samples covering three educational transitions (middle school, N = 760; high school, N = 214; post-high school, N = 853).The results of this thesis demonstrated that:a) autonomy support and psychological control are related but distinct constructs, and this relationship is moderated by developmental stage;b) the same latent constructs (i.e., kinds of parenting styles) are measured regardless of variation in report type and target, however, differences between youth and parent perceptions do moderate the relationship between parenting and well- and ill-being; andc) autonomy supportive parenting functions as both a protective factor against ill-being and a promotive factor for well-being around major educational transitions; and this is maintained across adolescence.The findings of all three studies were discussed in light of implications for theory, future parenting research, and clinical parenting interventions.