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Close Bond With Mom Helps Keep Teen Boys Safe

FRIDAY, Sept. 2 (HealthDay News) -- A boy's relationship with his mother changes as he grows up and the way it changes can affect his behavior when he's a teen, a new study says.

It included 265 mother-son pairs from low-income families in Pittsburgh who were followed from when the son was 5 years old through adolescence. The researchers assessed the level of conflict and warmth between the mothers and sons and other aspects of their lives, including the son's temperament and behavior, the mother's relationship with her romantic partner, and the quality of the mother's parenting.

Mothers of sons who had a difficult temperament as toddlers said their relationship with their son included a lot of conflict and lower levels of closeness over time. The study also found that mothers who had good relationships with their romantic partner tended to form closer bonds with their sons that endured throughout childhood and adolescence.

Boy who had lots of conflict with their mothers were more likely to engage in delinquent behavior as teens, while boys who had a close relationship with their mothers were more likely to have a good relationship with their best friends when they became teens.

The study appears in the journal Child Development.

"These results suggest that successfully adapting to the transitions of childhood and adolescence may require parents and children to maintain relatively high levels of closeness and minimize conflict in their relationships," lead author Christopher Trentacosta, an assistant professor of psychology at Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich., said in a journal news release.

"The findings also have implications for prevention and intervention," he added. "Family-focused programs should address conflict in the parent-child relationship if the goal is to reduce delinquent behavior, and should foster greater closeness between parents and children if improving peer relationships is the goal."

More information

The Nemours Foundation offers parents an overview of children's emotions and behavior.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Child Development, news release, Aug. 30, 2011

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