The nature and quality of adolescents’ relationships with parents is one of the most heavily researched topics in the study of adolescence (Smetana, Campione-Barr, & Metzger, 2006). In popular culture, there is a persistent perception that adolescence is a difficult period. Adolescents are thought to be selfish, preoccupied, and moody, and their relationships with their parents are said to involve generational strife, disrespect, and willful disobedience. Yet, overwhelming evidence from decades of psychological research indicates that extreme moodiness and alienation from parents, active rejection of adult values and authority, and youthful rebellion are the exception, not the norm. Only a small proportion of adolescents experience emotional turmoil and extremely conflicted relationships with parents. Those who do typically had problems and difficulties in their relationships with parents prior to adolescence (Collins & Laursen, 2004; Laursen & Collins, 2009; Smetana, 2011; Smetana et al., 2006). Moreover, high levels of conflict during adolescence clearly have negative consequences for adolescent development, relationships, and future adjustment (Laursen & Collins, 1994).
Although the storminess of the developmental period has been overemphasized, parent-child relationships do go through significant transformations during adolescence. Longitudinal studies indicate that adolescents’ daily moods become increasingly negative in the transition to and during adolescence (Larson, Moneta, Richards, & Wilson, 2002; Larson & Richards, 1994). Among American ethnic minority and majority youth alike, feelings of support, closeness, and intimacy with parents decline, although there is some variation in when during adolescence this occurs (Fuligni, 1998; Furman & Buhrmester, 1985, 1992). Bickering, squabbling, and disagreements over everyday issues appear to be a normative feature of parent-adolescent relationships (Collins & Laursen, 2004; Holmbeck, 1996; Smetana, 1996), not just in western cultures but worldwide (Smetana, 2011). According to a meta-analysis (Laursen, Coy, & Collins, 1998), conflicts with parents increase in frequency in early adolescence and then taper off; they increase in intensity from early to middle adolescence, leveling off after that. Indeed, moderate amounts of conflict during adolescence have been associated with better adjustment than either no conflict or frequent conflict (Adams & Laursen, 2001).