TUESDAY, Aug. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Parents often assume that time spent with their kids will dwindle in adolescence. But a new study suggests that while teens try to avoid spending a lot of time with their parents and friends together, private parent-child encounters may actually increase during these critical years.
And that may raise a teenager's self-esteem and social confidence, especially if it is time spent with Dad, the researchers added.
"It's commonly thought that something about adolescence splits kids and parents apart," said study co-author Susan McHale, a professor of human development at Penn State University. But, she said, they're often drawn together as the teenager becomes more capable of abstract thinking and interested in more communicative relationships.
The study was published in the August issue of Child Development.
The investigators wanted to know how time with parents affected teens' self-esteem and sense of social competence with their peers.
McHale and her colleagues have been studying how kids spend their time since the early 1980s. They've found that asking people after the fact what they did days or weeks earlier isn't as accurate or revealing as tracking activities in real time.
So they created a long-term (longitudinal) study in which they invited families in 16 school districts in central Pennsylvania to participate.
In each family, a teenager, a younger sibling, their mother and their father were interviewed in the home and then queried about their activities and self-perceptions five times over a period of seven years.
"Talking to kids on the phone about what they did that day really gives you insight into the reality of everyday life for them," said McHale. "Rather than getting generalized or processed information, it's right when things have been happening and in the children's own words,
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