Research Article: But I Trust My Teen: Parents’ Attitudes and Response to a Parental Monitoring Intervention

Date Published: June 7, 2012

Publisher: Hindawi Publishing Corporation

Author(s): Aaron Metzger, Christa Ice, Lesley Cottrell.


Parental knowledge gained from monitoring activities protects against adolescent risk involvement. Parental monitoring approaches are varied and may be modified with successful interventions but not all parents or adolescents respond to monitoring programs the same way. 339 parent-adolescent dyads randomized to receive a parental monitoring intervention and 169 parent-adolescent dyads in the control group were followed for one year over four measurement periods. Parent attitudes about the usefulness of monitoring, the importance of trust and respecting their teens’ privacy, and the appropriateness of adolescent risk-taking behavior and experimentation were examined as predictors of longitudinal change in parental monitoring and open communication. Similar effects were found in both the intervention and control group models regarding open communication. Parental attitudes impacted longitudinal patterns of teen-reported parent monitoring, and these patterns differed across experimental groups. In the intervention group, parents’ beliefs about the importance of trust and privacy were associated with a steeper decline in monitoring across time. Finally, parents’ attitudes about the normative nature of teen experimentation were associated with a quadratic parental monitoring time trend in the intervention but not the control group. These findings suggest that parental attitudes may impact how families respond to an adolescent risk intervention.

Partial Text

Adolescent risk behaviors such as drinking alcohol, other drug use, and early unprotected sexual activity often cooccur in a cluster of health risk behaviors that can lead to heightened risks of adolescent pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) [1]. Behavioral interventions for adolescents have established a strong foundation noting improved protection by improving adolescent HIV/AIDS and protective behavior knowledge, attitudes, and skills [2–5]. Despite successful adolescent risk reduction programming, HIV infections of young persons (13–29 years old) in the United States continue to impact 39% of all new HIV infections in 2009 [6]. Finding diverse and effective ways to educate and motivate adolescents to reduce adolescent risk behavior continues to be a challenge.

Family interventions are often designed to alter family dynamics and parenting behaviors. Changes in parenting practices are then hypothesized to directly lead to reductions in adolescent problem behavior, such as risky sexual activity. However, research on the effects of parenting on children and adolescent developmental and behavioral outcomes has consistently demonstrated between-family heterogeneity in parenting beliefs, style, and behaviors [25]. Little research has considered ways in which these existing family and parent characteristics, such as parental attitudes, may interact with dimensions of family interventions. The current study explored associations between parent attitudes (concerning monitoring, adolescent risk taking, and teen privacy) and parent open communication and direct monitoring strategies in a sample of families enrolled in the COPA parental monitoring intervention and in a comparison control group. Findings indicated that parent attitudes concerning teen delinquency and risk taking being normative and beliefs in the importance of trusting and respecting their teens’ privacy were longitudinally associated with change in parental monitoring strategies among families in the intervention group, but not in the control group. In contrast, parental attitudes were similarly related to longitudinal patterns of open communication in both the intervention and the control groups.