Insights on Gender and Teens

Do Parents Influence Teen Behavior?

The conventional wisdom around teens is that as they distance themselves from parents, their peers become their primary influence. But a closer look at research on teens provides a different perspective on the importance of the parent-teen relationship. Here are a few highlights that Moving Traditions staff have culled:   

The benefits of a positive parent-teen relationship continue well into adulthood, with reported lower levels of risky behaviors and psychological distress, and higher levels of self-esteem, happiness, and life satisfaction.(1)

Positive parent-teen relationships are key to healthy adolescent development and impact multiple factors in development:

  • Teens who report feeling connected to parents and family are more likely than others to delay initiating sexual intercourse.(2)
  • 50% of teens say they trust their parents most for reliable and complete information about birth control. Only 12% say they trust a friend for such information.(3)
  • Approximately 70% of adolescents have discussed condom use with their mothers; discussing condoms before first intercourse can increase the likelihood of future use.(4)
  • Positive relationships or connectedness between parents and adolescents is linked to avoidance or lower use of alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs.(5)
  • Two-thirds of teens ages 13-17 said that “upsetting their parents’ respect” is one of the main reasons they refrain from smoking marijuana or using other drugs.(6)

In addition, research shows that a meaningful and lasting connection with Judaism is not only valuable for its own sake, but also that connection to religious community correlates with higher grades, lower levels of drinking and drug use, and other dimensions of healthy development.(7)


(1) Umberson, D. (1992). Relationships between adult children and their parents: Psychological consequences for both generations. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 54, 664-674.
(2) Hundleby, J.D., & Mercer, G.W. (1987). Family and friends as social environments and their relationship to young adolescents’ use of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 49, 151-164;
(3) Princeton Survey Research Associates for the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. The 1996 Kaiser Family Foundation Survey on Teens and Sex: What Teens Today Say They Need to Know, and Who They Listen To. Menlo Park, CA, June 1996
(4) Miller, K. Whitaker, D., Xu, X. Patterns of Condom Use Among Adolescents: The Impact of Mother-Adolescent Communication. American Journal of Public Health, Vol.88 (10), 1998
(5) Resnick, M.D., Bearman, P.S., et al. (1997). Protecting adolescents from harm: Findings from the National Longitudinal Study for Adolescent Health, Journal of the American Medical Association, 278(10): 823-832; also Hundelby (above). As cited in Moore, K.A., Guzman, L., Hair, E., Lippman, L. & Garrett, S. (2004). Parent-teen relationships and interactions: Far more positive than not. Child Trends Research Brief, Publication 2004-25.
(6) Partnership for a Drug-Free America. (2002) Partnership Attitude Tracking Study.
(7) Blum, R. and P. Rinehart (1997). Reducing the Risk: Connections That Make a Difference in the Lives of Youth. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota, Division of General Pediatrics, Adolescent Health.

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