A recent study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCs) in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Supplements examined associations between parental monitoring and the behaviors and experiences of adolescents.
Study: Parental Monitoring and Risk Behaviors and Experiences Among High School Students — Youth Risk Behavior Survey, United States, 2021. Image Credit: fizkes/Shutterstock.com
Parental monitoring involves setting boundaries and openly exchanging knowledge/information on the child’s whereabouts, activities, and companions. It is a vital component of the relationship between children and parents and can potentially reduce risk behaviors.
Studies have reported protective associations between adolescent behaviors/experiences and parental monitoring.
Reduced parental monitoring has been linked to the increased likelihood of self-injury attempts and adverse behaviors. However, less is known regarding the relationship between parental monitoring and mental health indicators.
Moreover, the role of monitoring in adolescent behaviors has not been comprehensively evaluated across adolescent sub-group and minorities.
The study and findings
The present study described adolescent-reported levels of parental monitoring and their associations with adolescent behaviors/experiences. The team used data from the school-based youth risk behavior survey (YRBS) conducted in 2021.
The primary exposure was parental monitoring reported by adolescents. Responses were categorized into high or low parental monitoring.
Health behaviors/experiences included ever having had sex, using condoms, having multiple sex partners, forced sex, misuse of opioid prescription, using marijuana, suicide attempt, electronic bullying, and sadness/hopelessness.
Demographic variables were sex, race/ethnicity, sexual identity, and grade. Point prevalence estimates were computed in bivariate analyses. Multivariable logistic regression was performed to determine parental monitoring effects on each outcome.
The survey included data on 17,232 individuals. Most students (> 86%) reported that their parents knew where they were going and who they spent their time with.
The prevalence of high parental monitoring was higher among females and Asians than among males and Black students, respectively, but lower among students identifying as gay, lesbian, or bisexual.
There were no differences in reports of monitoring by grade. The prevalence of outcomes differed by race, ethnicity, sex, grade, and sexual identity.
Students reporting high parental monitoring exhibited more protective behaviors and experienced more favorable health outcomes than those reporting low parental monitoring.
In multivariate analyses, high parental monitoring was protective for all risk behaviors/experiences. The prevalence of ever having had sex was lower among students with high parental monitoring than those with low parental monitoring. High parental monitoring was associated with a lower prevalence of multiple sex partners, misuse of opioid prescription, marijuana use, and a higher prevalence of using condoms compared to low parental monitoring.
Students with high parental monitoring were less likely to have experienced electronic bullying or forced sex compared to those with low levels of parental monitoring.
Students reporting high monitoring were also less likely to report sadness/hopelessness and attempt suicide in the past year than those with low parental monitoring.
In summary, the researchers observed that the parents of most students in the survey knew where they were and whom they were with. High levels of parental monitoring were associated with a reduced risk of negative outcomes.
Overall, parental monitoring positively affected all risk behaviors and experiences of students.
These results spotlight the need for public health professionals to conduct further research on this topic to guide future public health interventions and policies.