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Loving your teen reduces conflict



New study asserts the continuing impact of emotional bonding

teens, emotional warmth, parents

A new study from the Yale Child Study Center finds that parents can lessen the effects of inevitable conflict with their teenage children by showing emotional warmth, and that this can make a difference within the course of a day.

The article in the scientific journal Emotion, the first study of its kind to examine fluctuations in how loved teens feel at a daily level, links parents’ displays of warmth and parents’ perceptions of conflict to daily fluctuations in how loved their teens were feeling.

Irrespective of the general closeness of the parent-teen relationships, researchers found that teens reported feeling more loved on days when parents reported showing more warmth in the form of affection, understanding, and praise. Likewise, teens reported feeling less loved on days when parents reported more conflict than usual. More importantly, the researchers said, they also found that parents can mitigate the impact of conflict by showing their teen warmth. In other words, on days when parents were warm, high levels of conflict didn’t reduce how loved teens felt.

To mitigate conflict, warmth had to be conveyed on the same day — but the warmth and conflict did not need to be related, the researchers found.

“Parents often stress about the conflicts they are experiencing with their children,” said John Coffey of Yale University, the study’s key author and researcher. “Our study suggests conflicts are manageable as long as children experience warmth from their parents at some point during the same day.”

To reach these conclusions, the researchers collected nightly surveys self-reported by one teen and one parent from 151 different families. Participating teens were in the 9th and 10th grades, and ranged in age from 13 to 16 years old. Slightly more female teens participated, and the vast majority (95%) of participating parents were female. Parents and teens also filled out initial baseline surveys about how close they were in general.

Teens who reported feeling generally closer to their parents did on average feel more loved.

“But even if they felt close to their parents, daily parent-reported conflict and warmth still predicted how much love a teen felt that day.”” Coffey adds. “The study findings are particularly useful right now because parents and their children are spending so much more time together, often with restricted space and under additional stress. Finding ways to be kind and warm will help mitigate potential conflicts and ensure children feel loved.”



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