Parenting Behavior During Emerging Adulthood: Associations with Emerging Adult Relationships and Risk Behaviors
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Emerging adulthood is the developmental period between adolescence and adulthood spanning ages 18-25. A central task of emerging adulthood is autonomy development, including forming stable romantic partnerships and peer support networks that will facilitate autonomy from parents. While emerging adulthood is a time of exploration and growth, this period is also associated with risk behavior including most types of substance use, risky sexual behavior and reckless driving. Research has shown strong links between earlier parenting and emerging adults’ peer and romantic relationships and problem behavior. A dearth of research has examined the impact of parenting during emerging adulthood on emerging adult outcomes. The present study drew from an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse sample of emerging adults (ages 19-20) and their parents (n = 209) from the Pacific Northwest region to examine how parenting behaviors during emerging adulthood impact low- and high-quality peer and romantic relationships, alcohol use and delinquent behavior. This study utilized observational and parent-report data to capture positive and negative parenting behaviors. Path modeling was conducted to examine associations between parenting predictors and relational and risk outcomes. Results indicated that observed parental hostility and criticism predicted emerging adult externalizing behaviors, and this relationship was partially mediated by affiliation with delinquent peers. Findings suggest that parenting may significantly contribute to youth development beyond the childhood adolescent years, and hostile and critical parenting during emerging adulthood may incur risk for emerging adult engagement with delinquent peers and delinquent behavior. This study is the first to observationally assess parenting during emerging adulthood with a population of young adults that are drawn from a representative community sample.