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FAMILY : Support Is Key in Teens' Lives

January 05, 1994|KATHLEEN DOHENY

Worry less about the kind of friends your teen-ager hangs out with and more about providing a supportive home atmosphere, advises an Ohio State University researcher.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, teen-agers who hang out with the "wrong crowd" are not at the highest risk of behavior problems, says Stephen Gavazzi, an assistant professor of family relations and human development who interviewed 60 teens and their parents and published the findings in the Journal of Adolescent Research.

Teens who believed that their parents were not supportive and were too intrusive had the most behavior problems--regardless of the kind of friends the teens had.

When a family is not supportive, Gavazzi says, a peer group can have tremendous effects on development, especially if the teen-ager sees the parents as too intrusive. Parents becoming overinvolved in their teen-ager's life was cited as one example of intrusiveness.

"The best conditions . . . are when they experience a sense of both family intimacy and individuality," he says.

How? Strike a balance between helping teens and letting them be independent, he says. "Let them make mistakes," he suggests, emphasizing that he is not referring to major mistakes such as drug abuse. "Then be there to help them pick up the pieces."

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