The Influence of Parents on Trajectories of Antisocial Behavior, Depressed Mood, and Child-to-Parent Abuse Across Adolescence and Young Adulthood

Wendi Johnson, Bowling Green State University


Parents have long been recognized as a key source of influence on children's behavior and well-being. However, much of the research has focused on the influence of parents in early childhood and to a lesser extent in adolescence. While parent-child bonds are likely to demonstrate a great deal of continuity over time, the relationship may improve or decline, and parenting practices may also shift over time. Recognizing the potential utility of a life course approach to parenting effects, I focus on two consequential developmental outcomes (depressed mood and antisocial behavior), and how parental factors influence young people from adolescence through to the less well-researched period of young adulthood. I also focus on an outcome that implicates the parent-child bond directly, namely child-to-parent abuse. In addition to extending prior research by considering parental influence beyond adolescence, I also consider how parents' own biographies and characteristics influence outcomes beyond the traditional parental factors of support and control. Finally, I examine the extent to which parents' influence on outcomes of well-being operates both directly and indirectly through identity development. Analyses rely on four waves of structured interview data from the Toledo Adolescent Relationships Study (n=1,290). Results showed that parents' early antisocial history and lifestyle orientation (e.g. partying behaviors) were related to trajectories of antisocial behavior, while parental depressed mood was associated with trajectories of depressive symptoms and parent abuse. Mediational analyses revealed that parental lifestyle orientation operates indirectly through the child's own endorsement of a partier identity. Parental early antisocial behavior influenced trajectories of child antisocial behavior both directly and indirectly through endorsement of the troublemaker identity. Additionally, results show that parental factors are influential in not only distinguishing between trajectories of antisocial behavior, depressive symptoms and parent abuse, but also influence change in individual trajectories. These findings caution against a static or kinds-of-people interpretation of parental influence. Rather, a more complex view of the parent-child relationship and the potential for change over time should be incorporated in theories of parental effects on a range of child outcomes.