Monitoring by Parents and Hypothesized Male-Female Differences in Evidence From a Nationally Representative Cohort Re-Sampled From Age 12 to 17 Years: An Exploratory Study Using a “Mutoscope” Approach

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Prevention Science




Springer New York LLC

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The link between adept parental monitoring (PM) and later positive behavioral and health outcomes already has motivated intervention trials, but questions remain about which specific facets and mechanisms of PM make a difference. Our current research questions concern fundamental male-female differences in PM facets as manifest in a US cohort, re-sampled each year at age 12 through 17 years during an interval from 2004 to 2009. We hypothesized emergence, by mid-adolescence, of a specific male-female difference in a “limit time with friends” (LTF) facet of adept PM, with overall PM levels held constant. The data, arranged using a “mutoscope” approach, are from six successive nationally representative independent cross-sectional sample surveys of the cohort, with each adolescent measured only once, via a multi-item PM module nested within the larger survey. Estimates and tests of male-female differences are from a “multiple indicators, multiple causes” latent structure model appropriate for complex survey data. In evidence consistent with the advance hypothesis and with PM level held constant via the model, the LTF facet generally was more relaxed for boys as compared to girls, in a difference that emerged by mid-adolescence, possibly due to greater LTF constraints for girls at mid-adolescence. This research adds to the knowledge base about male-female similarities and differences in facets of PM. As a specific PM facet, LTF might function as a mechanism suitable for deliberate intervention and as a possible specific target in “micro-trials” of new prevention research. We acknowledge limitations such as omitted variables, including social media effects, not measured in this investigation’s national surveys, but of potential importance in future research on peer influence as might have more distal parenting determinants.

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