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Time and Risks

Parental supervision and risky behaviour of teenagers in the U.S.
Copyright: DGLimages

When tackling risky behaviour of adolescents, are mothers and fathers equally capable of influencing their child? While the literature has pointed to a mitigating effect of parental supervision on adolescent risky behaviour, studies thus far did not differentiate between fathers and mothers.

Utilising data from time diaries, Sara Grace See tested the relationship between parental supervision and behaviours such as tobacco and marijuana smoking, as well as alcohol consumption, using a sample of adolescents between the ages of 10 and 21 from the U.S. Supervision was measured by the time each parent spent with the child per week, and the sample included only individuals living with both biological parents.

Overall, results indicate that only a father’s supervision reduces the chances of an adolescent participating in risky behaviours. Having meals and performing organised activities together with the child were found to be the most effective ways of influencing teenage behaviours. In terms of a child’s characteristics, more paternal supervision is particularly effective for teenage male adolescents, while more maternal supervision seems to aggravate risky behaviour. Results in terms of a child’s age indicate that the family’s influence weakens as the child grows older. However, at older ages, more maternal supervision actually reduces risky behaviours, while paternal supervision encourages it.



*This PopDigest has received funding from the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n° 320116 for the research project FamiliesAndSocieties. FamiliesAndSocieties ( has the aim to investigate the diversity of family forms, relationships and life courses in Europe, to assess the compatibility of existing policies with these changes, and to contribute to evidence-based policy-making. The consortium brings together 25 leading universities and research institutes in 15 European countries and three transnational civil society organizations.

Author(s) of the original publication: 
Daniela Vono de Vilhena