For mothers who feel that they are not in control of certain aspects of life and who are struggling with their relationship to their teenage children, social support may make a great difference. But the same does not seem to apply to fathers in the same situation, a new study published in Family Process shows.
"Parenting teenagers is not always easy. We wanted to look at what may make it easier to be a warm and positive parent with appropriate rules for teenage children," says Terese Glatz, researcher in social work at Örebro University. The study was undertaken in collaboration with colleagues in the US.
The study shows that parents who feel they are in control of their lives and parenthood are more consistent and better at setting boundaries. Parents with a social support network maintain a warmer relationship with their children compared to parents who are more isolated. The sense of control and a social network thus affect parents in different ways.
The next step of the study involved researchers taking a closer look at what can be done to help parents who feel that they are not in control of their lives. That is when they discovered a difference between mothers and fathers.
"A social support network proved to be a help to mothers in their parenting role. The support may involve help of a practical nature, such as baby sitting, as well as emotional support in the sense of having somebody who listens to you when you are having a hard time. For mothers who feel they are not in control of their lives, social support can help them build a better relationship with their children."
"Social support in times when you feel you are not in control, may help reduce stress and mothers are able to act in a more positive way towards their children," says Terese Glatz.
But for the fathers in the study who expressed a sense of not being in control of their lives, social support did not help the situation.
"Therefore, we need to focus our efforts in different directions for mothers and fathers who are having a hard time. Support activities for fathers may perhaps need to focus specifically on how they can regain a sense of control, while the efforts in helping mothers may entail support in expanding their social network."
Text and photo: Linda Harradine
Translation: Charlotta Hambre-Knight