Parental Development In Adolescence

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As any parent of an adolescent can attest, as children enter their teen years they begin to take more risks, break more rules, and generally behave in ways that their parents wish they wouldn’t. In fact, risky and deviant behaviors are quite normative in adolescence, a period of increased independence and exploration. There are neural developmental explanations for this increase, as adolescence is a developmental period characterized by increased attention to the salience of rewards and a not yet fully formed cognitive control system that would help adolescents make the kinds of smart decisions their parents are hoping for (Steinberg, 2010). This mismatch of attention to reward and cognitive control is often used as an explanation for jumps in thrill seeking behaviors during the post-puberty period (Crone & Dahl, 2012; Steinberg et al., 2008). Adolescence is also characterized by increased influence of peers, perhaps due to attention to the rewarding nature of peer relationships and interactions (Steinberg, 2010). The result is that adolescents are very strongly influenced by the actions of their peers (Brechwald & Prinstein, 2011). It is also important to consider the fact that adolescence is a period of autonomy development, with associated changes in the parent-child relationship; adolescents and parents are learning to navigate the teen’s increasing independence (Coleman, 1961; Steinberg & Silverberg, 1986). The nature of the adolescent developmental period is such that parental and adolescent expectations for appropriate behavior will often differ, and that at times in the battle between peer norms that prescribe risk taking behaviors (e.g. substance use, staying out late, sexual risk taking) and parental injunctive no...

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...al behavior. In this instance, there may in fact be deficits in responsiveness to disapproval for antisocial acts, which in turn will reduce the likelihood that callous unemotional youth will feel the pressure or drive to conform to social norms for behavior. More research is needed addressing the role of social norms in conduct disorder generally, but there is a particular need for a better understanding of how callous unemotional youth process social norms and feedback. Such research ought to inform interventions that will hopefully reduce the likelihood of positive outcomes for conduct disordered youth and increase the likelihood that they will be motivated to comply with societal norms for prosocial behavior and avoid antisocial behaviors like theft, aggression, and other forms of deviancy that carry significant costs for society and individual health risks.
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