Dating, Parent–Adolescent Conflict, and Behavioral Autonomy

Research paper by Bonnie B. Dowdy, Wendy Kliewer

Indexed on: 01 Aug '98Published on: 01 Aug '98Published in: Journal of Youth and Adolescence


Although dating is thought to contribute to adolescent development, little is known about how it affects autonomy development and relationships with parents. The contributions of dating status, grade, gender, and family structure to the frequency and intensity of normative conflict and to behavioral autonomy were studied. Tenth- and twelfth-grade public high school students (N = 859) completed measures of dating history, frequency, and intensity of parent–adolescent conflict, and of behavioral autonomy. Current daters (n = 325) had more frequent conflict and reported higher levels of behavioral autonomy than nondaters (n = 170). Additionally, males and twelfth graders reported more autonomy than females and tenth graders, respectively. Sophomores who were dating reported the most frequent conflict with parents, females who were dating reported the most intense conflict with parents, and seniors who were dating reported the highest levels of autonomy. Short-term daters had more frequent and more intense conflicts with parents relative to long-term daters and nondaters. These data highlight the utility of focusing on developmental tasks in addition to age when assessing conflict patterns and processes.