Abstract: Premature Adolescent Autonomy: Exploring Timescale to Guide Future Directions (Society for Prevention Research 27th Annual Meeting)

369 Premature Adolescent Autonomy: Exploring Timescale to Guide Future Directions

Thursday, May 30, 2019
Grand Ballroom A (Hyatt Regency San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Gregory M. Fosco, PhD, Associate Professor, Human Development and Family Studies and Psychology; Associate Director, Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
This presentation focuses on one of Tom Dishion’s important theoretical contributions: premature adolescent autonomy. This theory has tremendous implications for understanding pathogenic developmental processes in families, particularly in middle adolescence, by capturing the rate of change in family management practices in early to middle adolescence. In families where parenting quality and parent-adolescent relationships exhibit particularly rapid declines from early to middle adolescence, adolescents are at elevated risk for deviant peer affiliation. This combination of rapid family disengagement and deviant peer friendships elevates risk for substance use and antisocial behavior (Dishion et al., 2000; 2004). We will review this theory and its implications for family-centered preventive intervention programming.

In addition, we illuminate the underlying processes in premature autonomy through the use of daily diary methods. Drawing on our own sample of 151 families who participated in a 21-day daily diary study, we examine whether daily parenting behaviors (parent positive behavior support and parent hostility) lead adolescents to experience decreased closeness with their caregivers. In turn, we explore adolescent propensity towards caregiver disengagement as a risk factor when predicting problem outcomes (substance use, antisocial behavior) one year later.

Multilevel model results indicated that daily variation in parenting behaviors was associated with adolescents’ diminished feelings of closeness to caregivers. Specifically, 1) on days when parents used less praise and positive reinforcement (positive behavior support; PBS), adolescents felt less close to their caregivers and 2) on days when parents used more harsh parenting, adolescents felt less close to their caregivers. These findings indicate that there is a daily-level process in which parenting behaviors are linked with variability in adolescent’s feelings of connectedness with the family.

We then explored individual differences in the magnitude of this within-family coefficient (reactivity to parenting). Random effects from within-family slopes were extracted from the multilevel models to generate a reactivity score reflecting the magnitude of the within-family association for parenting and adolescent closeness to caregivers. We regressed adolescent antisocial behavior (1-year follow-up) on adolescents’ a) average daily level of closeness to parents, b) reactivity to PBS, c) reactivity to harsh parenting, d) sex, and e) baseline levels of antisocial behavior. Adolescents with higher reactivity to PBS exhibited elevated risk for increases in antisocial behavior one year later.

These findings offer a direction for carrying forward the next generation of Tom’s work on premature autonomy.