Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations

“It’s About Give and Take”: The Importance of Parental Felt Obligation in Adolescence

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Catherine Stein

Second Advisor

Eric Dubow (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Jennifer Gillespie (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Molly Laflin (Committee Member)


The present research examined perceptions of parental felt obligation among a sample of 502 adolescents from intact and divorced families. To create a larger context for the research, adolescents’ reports of parental felt obligation were compared with those of young and middle aged adults from previous research. The study further examined adolescents’ reports as a function of parental role, participant gender, and family type. The relative contribution of adolescent’ perceptions of their parental relationships in accounting for variation in self-reports of felt obligation was examined. The research also investigated the relative contribution of adolescents’ levels of felt obligation in accounting for variation in their reports of their current functioning.

Adolescents generally reported more parental felt obligation than middle aged adults. Adolescents reported differing levels of parental felt obligation to perform rituals, avoid conflict, and personally share than did young adults and reported similar levels of parental felt obligation to provide assistance and be self sufficient. Adolescents generally reported more maternal than paternal felt obligation and adolescents from intact families reported high levels of parental felt obligation towards than did adolescents from divorced families. Higher levels of overall felt obligation were generally associated with more self-reported parental attachment, lower levels of conflict with parents, and less perceived parentification. Less loneliness, fewer symptoms of depression, and higher self esteem were also found to be associated with higher levels of felt obligation.