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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Teens Willing to Help Parents at Own Expense

Teenagers feel some obligation to put aside their own desires to help their parents (even when their parents' needs are small), according to a new study led by University of Rochester psychologist Judith Smetana. The study found that both parents and teens (in this case, seventh and tenth graders) try to balance and coordinate requests for help with their own desires, taking into account who is asking for the help and how much help is needed. When the needs are low, parents are more likely than teenagers to think it's OK for teens to say no to requests for help and satisfy their own desires instead.
When needs are big, parents of tenth graders are more likely than the parents of seventh graders to think it's selfish to fulfill personal desires rather than help. On the other hand, tenth graders are less likely than seventh graders to think teens are selfish for not helping. "In other words, parents' and teens' ratings of selfishness became increasingly divergent with age," the researchers write. "This difference between parents' and adolescents' ratings may be linked to the increases in the intensity of adolescent-parent conflict found at this age." —Heather Wax