THE PARENT-CHILD RELATIONSHIP

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CHAPTER 2 THE PARENT-CHILD RELATIONSHIP

Introduction

This chapter is divided into two parts. The first part provides a review of theories regarding the parent-child relationship, with particular attention to the placement of pressure on the parent by the adolescent. In the second part, important factors that influence the parent-adolescent relationship are discussed in light of the theories presented in part 1.
In this chapter, psychodynamic theory focuses on attachment as the primary bond between parent and child. It is formed early in life, and affects all later relationships, including the parent-adolescent relationship. In contrast to the psychodynamic perspective, learning theory highlights the role played by environmental factors as parents and adolescents reinforce and shape each other’s behaviour. Humanistic theory focuses on subjective aspects, such as the need for autonomy, and explains how adolescents may place pressure on their parents for increased freedom. A theory which explicitly studies the concept of social power has been included in order to provide insight into the concept of power, and to show how power is used by adolescents to place pressure on parents. This chapter is concerned with adolescents who are still in the process of ‘becoming.’ Relational theory and developmentally related theories such as Piaget’s and Kohlberg’s moral theories have thus been included. The ecological-transactional approach describes the functioning of the family as a system, using the structural model.
study of the parent-adolescent relationship necessarily includes many factors. Individual factors relevant to both the parent and adolescent, such as age and personality, as well as variables relevant to the interaction between parent and adolescent such as communication, affect the relationship. The family context influences the relationship as do wider contexts, for example socio-economic issues and cultural factors.
The research presented in this chapter is studied with the aim of identifying factors which are likely to lead to the placement of pressure by adolescents on parents. While there is little published research on the application of pressure on parents by adolescents, conflict is a common theme in many of the situations discussed below. The presence of conflict is viewed as an indication that there is a potential for pressure to be placed on parents by adolescents.
One area that has focused on the application of pressure by adolescents on parents is the field of marketing and consumer research. In this regard, numerous studies have identified strategies that adolescents use to place pressure on their parents to purchase goods. This research has been included as it provides a starting point for identification of ways in which adolescents may pressurise their parents in other areas of life. Further, research in the field of communication has identified ways in which adolescents pressurise their parents by avoiding certain topics or withholding information. Recently, research has been carried out regarding extreme forms of pressure such as parent abuse. Where relevant, this information has been incorporated into the chapter.

Theories Regarding the Parent-child Relationship

Attachment Theory

Freud first suggested that attachment to primary caregivers, especially the mother, in infancy and early childhood, was important for the child’s later psychological development (Berk 2006:419). Attachment is the strong, affectionate bond that a person forms with others (Berk 2006:419). According to Freud, the mother is the first object of attachment because the mother satisfies the infant’s drives by feeding him frequently (Diamond & Blatt 2007:2). Later, the baby also becomes attached to the father and other caregivers who satisfy his drives (Berk 2006:419).
Bowlby (1991:179) expanded the concept of attachment. He is of the opinion that attachment is a behavioural system separate from the sexual drives of the individual (Bowlby 1991:179). According to Bowlby, attachment is the enduring affectionate bond with others, which has the aim of protecting the individual, and ensuring his survival (Diamond & Blatt 2007:4). The attachment behavioural system is activated by experiences of danger or threat. In response, the individual seeks closeness to the attachment figure (Edelstein & Shaver 2004:399).
Whether attachment is explained in psychoanalytic or behavioural terms, it is evident that individuals have a psychological need for attachment to one or more individuals. There are differences in the way attachment is experienced and expressed, as well as in the individual’s comfort with, desire for, and striving for closeness (Edelstein and Shaver 2004:400).

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Attachment in Adolescence

Attachment behaviour at twelve months predicts later behaviour (Bowlby 1991:362) and certain attachment patterns remain stable into adolescence (Kraemer et al. 2005:446). Children who are securely attached, and those who have been classified as disorganised, are more likely to remain consistent in their attachment patterns over time, than children who are classified as avoidant or resistant. Secure relationships are stable because they are mutually rewarding. Disorganised relationships are stable because they become self-perpetuating, through the responses children and their caregivers elicit and provoke (Kraemer et al. 2005:446)
During infancy and childhood, attachment patterns are organised into a cognitive structure, or working model (Sibley & Overall 2007:238-249). Once a child’s internal working model of attachment is developed, it is relatively stable and predicts other close relationships later in life especially if those relationships are similar to an existing attachment relationship (Sibley & Overall 2007:238-249).
Interpersonal problems develop as a result of inadequate attachment styles. Adolescents who have an ambivalent or resistant model of attachment, that is they continually seek support from others but are disappointed in the way others provide that support, report high levels of stress, and continuous conflict and anger with parents (Seiffge-Krenke 2006:25-39).
Other research shows that weak attachment is associated with aggression towards parents (Agnew & Huguley 1989:699-711). That is, adolescents who do not feel close to and accepted by their parents, are more likely to show physical aggression towards their parents, than adolescents who have strong attachments to their parents. Through aggression, these adolescents may place pressure on their parents.
Some children develop threat-oriented schemas due to inadequate attachment during infancy. These schemas can cause the adolescent to perceive that interactions with their parents are threatening. When adolescents perceive such threats they frequently become forceful and abusive, placing extreme pressure on parents (Bugental 1993:288-308). Further, individuals who experience relationships as threatening can show both fear and anger in different situations (Bugental, Brown & Reiss 1996:397-407). Thus, the child who tries to please or avoid the dominating parent at a young age may respond in an increasingly confrontational fashion as he or she gains physical strength (Bugental, Brown & Reiss 1996:397-407).
In adolescence, sexual maturation begins. As adolescents form relationships with romantic partners, their relationships with their parents and other significant people in their life contribute differently to their attachment needs (Markiewicz, Lawford, Doyle & Haggart 2006:127-140). This variability in felt security regarding different people does not detract from well-being. It appears to be an adaptive response to being able to satisfy one’s needs within different relationships (La Guardia, Ryan, Couchma & Deci 2000:367-384). Research has indicated that adolescents with romantic partners turn to these partners for security more than to anyone else. Overall, mothers are used as a source of security more than any others, for example fathers or peers. Adolescents turn to their fathers less than to anyone else for their attachment needs.
Adolescents who have an insecure attachment to their mothers will turn to her less and to romantic partners more, than those who are securely attached. A decreased need for parents may lead to the perception in adolescents that their parents need them more than they need their parents. This leads to an imbalance in power regarding the parent-adolescent relationship (Wolfe 1974:101). An increased sense of power over parents can lead to the adolescent placing pressure on parents to carry out their wishes.

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Behavioural Theory

Behaviourists believe that people’s behaviour is influenced or changed primarily by environmental factors and not by internal factors such as thoughts, needs, motives and feelings (Meyer, Moore & Viljoen 1997:263). People behave in certain ways because of the rewards they experience (positive reinforcement) or because of the need to escape or avoid unpleasant consequences (negative reinforcement) (Corey 2005:238). Both parents and their children use reward and punishment to influence or modify each other’s behaviour.
Adolescents need to learn appropriate behaviour, as this allows them to grow and develop, whilst at the same time respecting the rights of others. Parents use rewards such as praise or tangible rewards, for example gifts or money, to increase the frequency of desired behaviour in their adolescent children. In turn, adolescents use rewards, such as affectionate behaviour, to try to change the behaviour of their parents (Palan & Wilkes 1997:159-169).
Parents may use shaping, where rewards are given for kinds of behaviour that are increasingly similar to the behaviour the parent desires (Meyer, Moore & Viljoen 1997:190). For example, the parent may reward the adolescent for picking up all his clothes off the floor at first, but later only rewards the adolescent when he has picked up all the clothes and made his bed. At a still later stage, the adolescent may also have to also keep his cupboards tidy in order to obtain rewards from his parents. Adolescents can utilise shaping in the same way. For example, initially they may show contentment when a parent allows them to visit a friend for the day. Later they may only be happy when their parent agrees to let them stay overnight. Still later, they may only be satisfied when their parent allows them to remain with a friend for the whole weekend.
Extinction is used to eliminate behaviours through withholding reinforcement (Kazdin 2001:244). Parents may therefore ignore their adolescent’s sulking (that is, give no reinforcement) and the adolescent may soon stop such behaviour. The adolescent, in turn may use extinction to reduce the frequency of certain parental behaviours. For example, the adolescent may deliberately remain unresponsive to a parent who requests that chores be carried out.

CHAPTER 1 AWARENESS AND ANALYSIS OF THE PROBLEM, AIM AND PROGRAMME OF THE RESEARCH
1.1 Awareness of the problem
1.2 Formal statement of the problem
1.3 Aim of the investigation
1.4 Programme of the research
CHAPTER 2 THE PARENT-CHILD RELATIONSHIP
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Theories regarding the Parent-child Relationship
2.3 Important Factors Which Influence the Parent-child Relationship  During Adolescence
2.4 Conclusion
CHAPTER 3 ADOLESCENT DEVELOPMENT
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Physical Development
3.3 Cognitive Development
3.4 Personality Development
3.5 Affective Problems in Adolescence
3.6 Social Development
CHAPTER 4 EMPIRICAL INVESTIGATION
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Hypotheses
4.3. Questionnaires and Measuring Instruments
4.4 Selection of the Sample
4.5 Procedure Followed During the Testing
CHAPTER 5 RESULTS OF THE EMPIRICAL INVESTIGATION
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Item analysis and Reliability of the Parent Pressure
5.3 Final Reliability of the Parent Pressure Questionnaire, Parent Self-concept Questionnaire and Parent-adolescent Relationship Questionnaire
5.4 Validity of the Parent Pressure Questionnaire, Parent Self-concept Questionnaire and Parent-adolescent Relationship Questionnaire
5.5 Norms for the Parent Pressure Questionnaire
5.6 Testing of the Hypotheses
5.7 Conclusion
CHAPTER 6 CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
6.1 Introduction
6.2 Educational Guidance for Parents
6.3 Parent Communication and Involvement in School Activities
6.4 Supervision and Structured Activities
6.5 Evaluation of the study and Suggestions for Further Research
6.6 References
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