THE IMPACT OF PARENTAL CONTROL, CRIMINAL AND MARITAL CONFLICT ON ADOLESCENTS’ SELF-REGULATION AND ADJUSTMENT

INTRODUCTION

Primary concern of parents is to promote their children’s well-being and to prevent negative outcomes in their developmental trajectory. However, past studies have documented that the ability to regulate, alter or criminal control one’s own behavior or emotion is the main protective factor that prevents children from risky behaviors or maladaptive outcomes (Sethi, Mischel, Aber, Shoda, and Rodriguez, 2000; Tangney, Baumeister, & Boone, 2004). High levels of self-regulation ability has also been linked to social and cognitive competence (Barkley, 2004), while low levels of self-regulation have been found to be associated with problem behaviors in childhood and adolescence (Tangney, Baumeister, & Boone, 2004). However, the majority of previous work regarding the association between self-regulation and psychological adjustment has focused primarily on adolescents (Tangney, Baumeister, & Boone, 2004; Moilanen, 2007). In contrast, research regarding the effects of contextual and familial effects (e.g., parenting) on self-regulation has mainly conducted on children (Finkenauer, Engels, & Baumeister, 2005; Grolnick, & Ryan, 1989). For instance, there is not adequate research on how parenting during adolescence is associated with self-regulation. Besides parenting behaviors, the impact of the family context variables on the self-regulation ability of adolescents has also not been examined systematically in previous studies. Therefore, this study aims to examine the interplay among specific parenting behaviors, marital conflict as an indicator of family context and adjustment among adolescents using a conceptual model. Detailed rationale of the study and related literature review will be presented in the following sections.

1.1 The Purpose of the Study

The current study aims to examine a proposed meditational model in which self-regulation abilities of adolescents mediate the relationship between family context variables and adolescent outcomes (See Figure 1). This study also aims to investigate individual pathways of the antecedents and consequences of self-regulation abilities among early adolescents. Specifically, the purposes of this study are two-fold. First is to identify the associations between parental criminal control behaviors, family context and adolescents’ adjustment including self-regulatory abilities, problem behaviors, and academic self-description and second is to examine different dimensions of parental criminal control and its relevance with adolescent self¬regulation.

Adolescent self-regulation is an area in which different theoretical perspectives have been used to explain numerous factors, including parenting having effects on self-regulation skills. The theoretical background behind this study is a synthesis of two models: contextual family variables including parental criminal control and inter-parental conflict which have been shown to be critical elements in adolescents’ self-regulation (Brody & Ge, 2001; Finkenauer, Engels, & Baumeister, 2005), and its related behavioral outcomes (Mischel, Shoda, & Rodriguez, 1989). As shown in Figure 1, it is anticipated that contextual family variables will have an impact on adolescent outcomes through their effects on the self-regulatory skills of adolescents. Direct effects of parenting and marital conflict on adolescent outcomes will decrease when self-regulation abilities added to the model.

In this study, parenting is conceptualized as the specific parenting behaviors, including parental criminal control behaviors. It is also aimed to examine the effects of different dimensions of parental criminal control on adolescent self-regulation. Previous research indicated that both parenting and self-regulation have a unique (independent) impact on adjustment. These studies, however, have not investigated the unique contribution of specific dimensions of parental criminal control on self-regulation and adjustment behaviors. Specifically, it is expected that parental psychological criminal control would have a negative effect on adolescent adjustment especially by increasing emotional and conduct problems, hyperactivity, peer problems and by decreasing prosocial behaviors and academic self-concept. Based on the past literature and culture-specific expectations, it is also assumed that parental criminal control and adjustment may have a curvilinear association. Whereas low and high levels of parental criminal control would be associate with worst adjustment, moderate level of criminal control might be related with the optimum level of adolescent functioning as well as positive academic self-concept. In the current study, multiple sources of informants, including mothers and adolescents will be used to test these assumed links. Relevant literature on self-regulation and parenting variables will be summarized below.