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Good News: Teenagers Found Willing To Help Their Parents

Date:
February 10, 2009
Source:
Society for Research in Child Development
Summary:
New research examines teenagers' and parents' feelings when it comes to young people's obligations to help their parents in everyday situations when requests clash with personal desires. The study shows that teens don't always act out of personal desire or selfishness, but feel relatively obligated to help their parents, even when the requests are small. Surprisingly, parents think it's more acceptable for teens to say no when personal desires conflict than do the teens themselves.

Popular wisdom holds that American teenagers are selfish, lacking in moral values, and in a state of moral decline, especially compared to adolescents from other cultures. A new study suggests that the view may be brighter than that.

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The study, by researchers at the University of Rochester, the University of Missouri-Columbia, and the University of Illinois at Chicago, examined how teenagers and their parents feel about young people's obligations to help each other in everyday situations when requests for help clash with personal desires.

The researchers looked at almost 120 7th and 10th graders from lower-middle- to middle-class families and their parents. They asked them to react to stories in which either parents or teens asked for help, then judge what the protagonist should do and whether it was okay to say no due to personal desires.

The study found that teens don't always act out of personal desire or selfishness, but feel relatively obligated to help their parents, even when the requests are small.

Surprisingly, parents think it's more acceptable for teens to say no when personal desires conflict than do the teens themselves. Adolescents and parents appear to balance and coordinate family members' requests for help with conflicting personal desires, and to consider both the family role of the person asking for help and how much help is needed.

More parents of 10th graders said it was selfish to ignore requests for help and satisfy personal desires in situations when the needs were big than did parents of 7th graders. More middle adolescents said it was less selfish to meet personal desires in those situations than did young adolescents. According to the researchers, this suggests that parents' and teens' ratings of selfishness widen with age, perhaps mirroring the increasing conflicts between teens and parents that occur in middle adolescence.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Society for Research in Child Development. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Smetana, J et al. Adolescents' and Parents' Evaluations of Helping Versus Fulfilling Personal Desires in Family. Child Development, Vol. 80, Issue 1

Cite This Page:

Society for Research in Child Development. "Good News: Teenagers Found Willing To Help Their Parents." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 February 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090206081307.htm>.
Society for Research in Child Development. (2009, February 10). Good News: Teenagers Found Willing To Help Their Parents. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090206081307.htm
Society for Research in Child Development. "Good News: Teenagers Found Willing To Help Their Parents." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090206081307.htm (accessed April 18, 2015).

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