Parents Hold the Key to Emotional and Behavioral Problems of Adolescents

Study of adult responses to the developmental challenges of early adolescence
    • June 1, 2000

In 1998, Laura Sessions-Stepp, a reporter on leave from The Washington Post, carried out research for a book on the developmental needs of young adolescents and adult responses to those needs.

Beginning in June 1996, Sessions-Stepp undertook a study of adolescents and their parents in 18 families in three communities:

  • South Central Los Angeles
  • Ulysses, Kansas
  • Durham, N.C.

Sessions-Stepp conducted extensive interviews, phone conversations, and e-mail correspondence over a period of 30 months, which she augmented with research and consultation with experts in adolescent development.

This grant supported the author during a six-month period of writing, interviews, and research beginning in January 1998.

Key Findings

  • The anecdotal information collected by the author suggests that adults who affirm the worth of adolescents can help them to avoid the emotional and behavioral problems to which they often are susceptible.

    Such affirmation includes:

    • Acting as the youth's agent in the world.
    • Advocating on their behalf with external institutions.
    • Placing the highest priority on communication with the adolescent.
  • The interviews also suggest that many early adolescent problems may be traced to the adult behavior around the adolescent, and that good parenting is independent of family income or structure.