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Parent–Child Connectedness and Behavioral and Emotional Health Among Adolescents

      Background

      This study sought to examine teen perceptions of mother–child and father–child connectedness, with focus on valuing parental opinions and perception of parental communication and caring, and associations with behavioral and emotional health.

      Methods

      A population-based sample of 4746 students in public schools completed the 2001 Project EAT (Eating Among Teens) survey.

      Results

      Overall, the majority of girls and boys reported valuing their parents’ opinion when making serious decisions and believing that their parents cared about them. Yet, one fourth of girls and boys felt unable to talk to their mother about problems, and over half of girls and one third of boys felt unable to talk to their father. Valuing friends’ opinions over parents’ opinions, and perceiving low parental communication and caring were associated with unhealthy weight control, substance use, suicide attempts, body dissatisfaction, depression, and low self-esteem. Of significant concern, compared to their peers who reported feeling that their mother cared quite a bit or very much, youths who reported feeling as though their mother cared very little or not at all about them reported particularly high prevalence rates of unhealthy weight control behaviors (63.49% girls, 25.45% boys); suicide attempts (33.51% girls, 21.28% boys); low self-esteem (47.15% girls, 24.56% boys); and depression (63.52% girls, 33.35% boys).

      Conclusions

      Adolescents’ perceptions of low parental caring, difficulty talking to their parents about problems, and valuing their friends’ opinions for serious decisions were significantly associated with compromised behavioral and emotional health. Interventions aimed at improving the parent–child relationship may provide an avenue toward preventing health risk behaviors in youth.
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