Teenage is a very important stage of human development. During this stage people change and develop both physiologically and emotionally. Various theories have been advanced to explain these changes especially the perceived sense of emotional autonomy that the teenagers have at this stage of human development. There is also another school of thought that suggests that there is an increased closeness between the youths and their parents.
To reconcile these prepositions and most importantly in a bid to get the truth of the matter, a study was carried out to unearth the truth.
The study Changes in Adolescents’ Daily Interactions with their Families from Ages 10-18 (1996) included 220 participants, who were white, originated from middle-class and worked in the suburbs of Chicago. The 220 working middle –class youth were selected from a cross-sequential longitudinal study of adolescence development time. These youths were in their 5th – 8th grade with ages between 10 and 14. A second study was done 4 years later. By that time the participants who took part in the study were in the 9th – 12th grades. Their age then was 13-18 years. Sample one of the study was done randomly from 4 elementary and junior high schools in the suburbs of Chicago. The working class category was composed of European American youths. The researchers did a stratification practice to attain equal numbers in terms of gender, community gender and age.
Some of the participants who took place in the first study did not participate in the second one. At the second study, the number of boys was 97 with that of girls being 123. The researchers identified the following reasons for non participation. Some of the participants failed to get permission from their parents, while others had moved or could not be reached at the time of the second study.
The participants were required to write reports on their own experience for a week. They were supposed to hand in their reports when signaled. The data collection procedure followed an Experience Sampling Method (ESM). Throughout the week, signals were sent between 7.30 a.m. and 10.30 p.m. for all weekdays, while for weekends, the signals were sent between 8.00 a.m. and 12.00 a.m. The percentage of those who responded to the signal at the first study was 85%, while that for the second study was 76%. Those who missed the signal due to technical failure were 6%. The remaining had a spectrum of reasons. These were either forgetting the papers at home or that the signal occurred during activities that could not be interrupted such as examinations or sports.
The researchers took some measures to ensure that the Experience Sampling Method was carried out effectively. They included indicating who the participants were at the time of signal, activity/ topic of conversation and the location at the time of signal and subjective experience (emotional state) of participants at the time of signal. The participants were also supposed to rate the perception of the people they were with at the time of signal on a scale rate of being very unfriendly to being very friendly, which were later converted to z- scores.
Data was also collected by providing questionnaires. Just as it was in the case of Experience Sampling Method, a number of measures were also taken. Some of these measures included pubertal status which required participants to provide pubertal status by rating pubertal development. To achieve this, they had to compare themselves with some drawing. Family relation was another measure taken. The participants provided information on family conflict and relationship. They had to rate how close they were to both parents. Another measure was life situation variables. They responded to question on factors relating to being away from their families at home like having their own bedroom, television, DVD players etc. The last measure was school grade against chronological age. The social age given by grade in school was preferred to chronological age.
Appropriate analytic procedures were chosen to take care of the multilevel of the Experience Sampling Method data, where applicable multilevel modeling was used. This is a regression procedure that is used in modeling data with hierarchical structure.
At the end of the research, it was evident that there were changes in the amount of time, context and content of family interactions. The total time spent with family declined from early adolescence to late adolescence. Grade was a useful indicator. It showed that the time spent with family decreased by 2.74% per year from the 5th grade to the 12th grade period. The largest decline of family time was over weekends (Friday and Saturday), nights, weekdays afternoons and evenings. Most frequent time for family interaction was observed to be on Sunday afternoon. Time within the family system was also observed. The time spent with mother and father alone did not reduce considerably across the eight-year period. Attention was also given to activities and topics of conversation with family. There was reduction in all family activities with grade except transport and talking. Topics of discussion were observed to become interpersonal with age especially with girls. The last item of focus of that study was the affect. Adolescence affect with family was found to shrink in early adolescence but improved in late adolescence.
The overall focuses of the above research were on the quality and quantity of time that the teenagers spent with their parents and other family members. It is evident that as much as disengagement between these age groups was there, some aspects of their interactions, especially with their parents, remained constant or they were even strengthened at this stage.