Maternal Autonomy and Controlling Parenting Predict Teenage Depression

Summary: A new study found that both adolescents and their mothers can have differing perceptions of parenting behavior, which can have an impact on adolescents’ mental health. The study found that while maternal autonomy support positively predicted adolescents’ basic psychological needs satisfaction, adolescents’ perceived controlling parenting had a negative impact on their mental health. The findings suggest the importance of understanding the nature of support that adolescents seek and guiding parenting behavior to enhance mental health and well-being.

Source: Doshisha University

The relationship between adolescents and their parents has always been an intriguing issue in psychological research. Several studies underscore the significance of parenting behavior in the development of young people.

Parental autonomy support, in particular, has been considered essential for adolescents’ growth and healthy functioning. Parental autonomy support and controlling parenting are the two most important facets of parenting. The former refers to parents supporting the independence of their children, including listening carefully, providing choices, perspective-taking, and offering valid reasoning for particular behaviors.

On the contrary, controlling parenting refers to parental behaviors that pressure children to do things they would not freely do, including enforcing obedience and conformity, using rewards as a tool to control, imposing one’s own agenda on the children, and allowing them fewer choices.

These parenting behaviors can either decrease or increase the risk for mental illnesses, respectively, in adolescence. Similarly, the two behaviors can positively or negatively influence adolescents’ satisfaction of basic psychological needs, respectively.

Satisfaction of basic psychological needs increases adolescents’ life satisfaction and their enhances mental wellness. Whereas, a lack of satisfaction could lead to diminished vitality, loss of volition, fragmentation of personality, and ill-being.

However, most studies on parental autonomy support and controlling parenting depend primarily on children’s perceptions of parenting behaviors, ignoring the fact that parents and children can have different perceptions. And very few studies have explored the impact of these perceptions on adolescents’ basic psychological needs satisfaction.

Consequently, researchers in Japan, led by Prof. Ayumi Tanaka from Doshisha University’s Faculty of Psychology, investigated the similarity between the perceptions of adolescents and their mothers on parental autonomy support and controlling parenting. They also examined the possible association of these perceptions with adolescents’ depressive symptoms (mental health) by using basic psychological needs satisfaction as a mediator.

“It is necessary to understand the relative impact of parents’ and adolescents’ perceptions of autonomy support and controlling parenting on basic psychological needs satisfaction. This understanding could explain the importance of parenting in the adolescent developmental process” explains Prof. Tanaka. 

This study, which was published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence on 19 January 2023, is part of a larger research project—”The examination of risk factor for amotivation in the classroom.”

Prof. Tanaka and her team recruited 408 pairs of mothers and adolescent from Japan who completed a questionnaire at two time points, four months apart (October 2019 and February-March 2020). They gauged the perceptions of adolescents and mothers regarding mothers’ autonomy support and controlling parenting using the 24-item Perceived Parental Autonomy Support Scale (P-PASS).

Then they collected data on adolescents’ level of basic psychological needs satisfaction via the Japanese version of the Basic Psychological Need Satisfaction and Frustration Scale. They also collated adolescents’ level of depressive symptoms using a version of the Depression Self-Rating Scale for Children.

Statistical analysis of the mother-adolescent responses revealed that there is low to moderate agreement between mothers’ and adolescents’ perceptions of parenting. The researchers also found that mothers’ reported autonomy support, but not adolescents’ perceptions, positively predicted adolescents’ basic psychological needs satisfactions. However, adolescent-reported basic psychological needs satisfaction was found to negatively predict depressive symptoms.

This shows a depressed teen
These results show that adolescents may perceive parenting differently than their mothers, which could be a result of differing points of view. Image is in the public domain

These results show that adolescents may perceive parenting differently than their mothers, which could be a result of differing points of view. However, despite these differences, both perceptions can independently predict depressive behavior in adolescents based on basic psychological needs satisfaction.

Furthermore, regardless of adolescents’ perceptions, maternal autonomy support might be beneficial; and regardless of mothers’ report, adolescents’ perceived controlling parenting is damaging for adolescents’ mental health.

Envisioning the possible impact of this research, Prof. Tanaka says, “With these findings, mothers and other people around adolescents can understand the nature of support that adolescents seek. Support for healthy life for adolescents,  the creators of the future, is important for every society in the world.

“We hope that  our research can help vitalize the society in both the short- and long-terms by guiding parenting behavior to enhance mental health and well-being of adolescents.”

About this depression and parenting research news

Author: Jun Kita
Source: Doshisha University
Contact: Jun Kita – Doshisha University
Image: The image is in the public domain

Original Research: Open access.
Longitudinal Association between Maternal Autonomy Support and Controlling Parenting and Adolescents’ Depressive Symptoms” by Ayumi Tanaka et al. Journal of Youth and Adolescence


Longitudinal Association between Maternal Autonomy Support and Controlling Parenting and Adolescents’ Depressive Symptoms

Most studies on autonomy support and controlling parenting rely on children’s perceptions, despite the limitations of this approach.

This study investigated congruency between autonomy support and controlling parenting reported by mothers and adolescents and their association with adolescents’ depressive symptoms via basic psychological needs satisfaction.

Participants included 408 Japanese mother–adolescent (Mage = 13.73, SD = 0.90, 52% female) pairs who completed a questionnaire at two time points four months apart.

Results demonstrated low to moderate levels of mother–adolescent agreement. Cross-lagged regression models revealed that mothers’ reported autonomy support positively predicted adolescents’ basic psychological needs satisfactions, which was negatively associated with depressive symptoms.

The independent roles of parenting reported by mothers and adolescents for adolescents’ well-being were discussed.

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  1. Teaching martial arts & yoga 30 years realized the value of independence.Not physically but emotionally.Being born 1941 Indian Culture ,very conservative for a woman specially.Moving to United States at the age of 25 married & already with one child took me long time to grow & fit with the culture.Raised my kids with independence & security.Took me long time to stay connected with Community & Taekwondo school.Yoga taught me relaxation.My goal of teaching is to inspire others with humility.Be independent minded.Find your path & focus on your goals.
    Age should not hold you back.At the age of 82,most of the times feel free bird mentally & share with my husband closely.Free mind is a blessing.Young children need balance discipline & freedom.Don’t hold them too tight share love & peace.Hug them please

  2. Shame on you. This is just another reason to make mothers feel guilty. Mothers carry the burdens of a country. How dare you publish this article. I am a single mother and raised an incredible son. No go clean your room and call your mother!!

  3. Fifty years ago I learned (as a Psych undergrad) that Psychologists are discovering things that people already know. This is a textbook example…

  4. We all have different backgrounds and different beliefs my problem with research in most cases is that it’s done on a certain group of people and most of the time relevant only to western cultures, this is not how we raise our kids in the rest of the world, this is not how I was raised and I turned out just fine.

  5. Replying to quality of life of ” happier people in rural or urban settings?” I think due to the decrease in agricultural based lifestyle also contributes to this conclusion. The family unit of has changed from the rural actually being with their children less and less bc the only need for rural living may be bc its a family members home,less rent, less likely to have strict rental agreement perhaps. As the rural realize progressive urban life is outside thier scope, as well as fewer hospitals and medical care facilities. The idealism of More is better and entertainment is interchangeable within blocks. These families often have repercussions of boredom showing symptoms of video game obsession. Obsesion of video or anything means beyond borders if a healthy mind and unable to resume daily activities,task or relationships without putting first the thing obsessed over. Unfortunately we all have the ability to become consumed. The simple appreciations for besuty,peaceful settings,wildlife,fishing,hunting,camping are somehow not esteemed in many rural areas and then the urban dwellers seek it often. It’s almost like a sence of economic oppression has effected some rural areas and robbed them of their culture, heritage,and family run ways of making income. Those of us resentful perhaps of our struggle ,hardworking and sweat to continue to produce an important business may now have effected negative impact on some. There’s something important about keeping farms,especially family farms. SMALL SCHOOLS ,SMALL FARMS,SMallTowns,can actually produce big minds and big change in a positive way of life. I was urban youth. I didn’t prosper until I was put in a small school with more ability to focus. I was sent to a small farm bc I was always running away and ” wild”. This farm showed me a practical way of life. I started seeing the intrinsic value for things and how the cosmic button just turned on for life! This fostered my love for plants and appreciation for the ” farmers” and theirways of life. I saw them as very educated, primitive to a benefit as well and survivalist, ingenuity scale much higher than city folk,and family values,sharing,mealtime and the children realizing their importance and greatly they senced their need to be needed. We can often indirectly think our children know their needed but this often comes from us giving them what they need monetarily. This can be also a myth and confused with ” meeting thier needs ” which is a way to be in tune with raising your child and developing understanding and contentment. We expressing our need for their help on the farm perhaps or other areas in life such as our need for them to wait at certain times so we can finish something important. Working or waiting whenever they see how they positively affect the family as a whole is a very fundamental concept for becoming a well adjusted and also less self absorbed adult. Which means less mental illness and psychiatric needs in many cases. So areas could be researched about urban and rural happiness in youth left alone vs family time or even home-cooked. You could go anywhere with it I suppose. Thanks so much enjoyed your article

  6. Kids need to understand not ordered.Teen age years need independence, not argument rather love & understanding.They need to be supervised by parents but not stay more in isolation or cell phones.
    Engaging with social activities like Martial arts, yoga,tennis,basket ball or foot ball build their confidence & they learn social skills.
    Healthy diet spirituality add joy & peace & teenagers listen others better.
    I have raised three children, learnt a lot through experiences & taught sports to children to understand their concept of freedom.

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