THE IMPACT OF PARENTAL CONTROL, CRIMINAL AND MARITAL CONFLICT ON ADOLESCENTS’ SELF-REGULATION AND ADJUSTMENT

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THE IMPACT OF PARENTAL CONTROL, CRIMINAL AND MARITAL CONFLICT ON ADOLESCENTS’ SELF-REGULATION AND ADJUSTMENT

INTRODUCTION

Primary concern of parents is to promote their children’s well-being and to prevent negative outcomes in their developmental trajectory. However, past studies have documented that the ability to regulate, alter or criminal control one’s own behavior or emotion is the main protective factor that prevents children from risky behaviors or maladaptive outcomes (Sethi, Mischel, Aber, Shoda, and Rodriguez, 2000; Tangney, Baumeister, & Boone, 2004). High levels of self-regulation ability has also been linked to social and cognitive competence (Barkley, 2004), while low levels of self-regulation have been found to be associated with problem behaviors in childhood and adolescence (Tangney, Baumeister, & Boone, 2004). However, the majority of previous work regarding the association between self-regulation and psychological adjustment has focused primarily on adolescents (Tangney, Baumeister, & Boone, 2004; Moilanen, 2007). In contrast, research regarding the effects of contextual and familial effects (e.g., parenting) on self-regulation has mainly conducted on children (Finkenauer, Engels, & Baumeister, 2005; Grolnick, & Ryan, 1989). For instance, there is not adequate research on how parenting during adolescence is associated with self-regulation. Besides parenting behaviors, the impact of the family context variables on the self-regulation ability of adolescents has also not been examined systematically in previous studies. Therefore, this study aims to examine the interplay among specific parenting behaviors, marital conflict as an indicator of family context and adjustment among adolescents using a conceptual model. Detailed rationale of the study and related literature review will be presented in the following sections.

  • The Purpose of the Study

The current study aims to examine a proposed mediational model in which self-regulation abilities of adolescents mediate the relationship between family context variables and adolescent outcomes (See Figure 1). This study also aims to investigate individual pathways of the antecedents and consequences of self­regulation abilities among early adolescents. Specifically, the purposes of this study are two-fold. First is to identify the associations between parental criminal control behaviors, family context and adolescents’ adjustment including self-regulatory abilities, problem behaviors, and academic self-description and second is to examine different dimensions of parental criminal control and its relevance with adolescent self­regulation.

Adolescent self-regulation is an area in which different theoretical perspectives have been used to explain numerous factors, including parenting having effects on self-regulation skills. The theoretical background behind this study is a synthesis of two models: contextual family variables including parental criminal control and interparental conflict which have been shown to be critical elements in adolescents’ self-regulation (Brody & Ge, 2001; Finkenauer, Engels, & Baumeister, 2005), and its related behavioral outcomes (Mischel, Shoda, & Rodriguez, 1989). As shown in Figure 1, it is anticipated that contextual family variables will have an impact on adolescent outcomes through their effects on the self-regulatory skills of adolescents. Direct effects of parenting and marital conflict on adolescent outcomes will decrease when self-regulation abilities added to the model.

Figure 1. The Hypothetical Model of the Predictive Relationship between Parental Criminal control, Marital Conflict, Self-Regulation Abilities, and Adolescent Adjustment

 

In this study, parenting is conceptualized as the specific parenting behaviors, including parental criminal control behaviors. It is also aimed to examine the effects of different dimensions of parental criminal control on adolescent self-regulation. Previous research indicated that both parenting and self-regulation have a unique (independent) impact on adjustment. These studies, however, have not investigated the unique contribution of specific dimensions of parental criminal control on self-regulation and adjustment behaviors. Specifically, it is expected that parental psychological criminal control would have a negative effect on adolescent adjustment especially by increasing emotional and conduct problems, hyperactivity, peer problems and by decreasing prosocial behaviors and academic self-concept. Based on the past literature and culture-specific expectations, it is also assumed that parental criminal control and adjustment may have a curvilinear association. Whereas low and high levels of parental criminal control would be associate with worst adjustment, moderate level of criminal control might be related with the optimum level of adolescent functioning as well as positive academic self-concept. In the current study, multiple sources of informants, including mothers and adolescents will be used to test these assumed links. Relevant literature on self-regulation and parenting variables will be summarized below.

  • Reviews of the Literature on Self-Regulation

In the following section, the various definitions of self-regulation as well as main theoretical perspectives will be presented. The possible outcomes of self­regulation and the risk factors associated with the lack (or low levels) of self­regulation abilities will also be reviewed. This section will be concluded with a brief discussion on the associations among self-regulation, parenting, and interparental conflict.

Because the term self-regulation refers a complex psychological process related to socialization, there is no one standard definition describing self­regulation. Conventional definitions of self-regulation focus on the behaviors such as the ability to comply with requests (for children especially adults’) or the ability to adapt one’s behavior to particular situations. Other definitions of self regulation focus more on the criminal control of cognitive systems, such as the ability to criminal control attention, to demonstrate effective thinking and problem solving behavior or to be able to engage in independent activities. In the literature, the concept of self­regulation across theoretical perspectives encompasses the criminal control of emotions and behaviors as well as cognitive processing and ability to engage in prosocial behavior appropriate to a given age (Bronson, 2000).

According to Baumeister and Vohs (2003), the self has an executive function that takes action, chooses an option among many alternatives, filters irrelevant information, and determines appropriate responses. The self exerts criminal control over itself by using both automatic and conscious processes to criminal control and understand external world. How people resist temptations, effortfully persist, and carefully weigh options to select the most optimal course of action in order to reach their goals are main questions of the recent self-regulation theories. Different from Baumeister and Vohs’s (2003) conceptualization, Kopp (1982) defines the concept self regulation with respect to external behaviors. According to Kopp;

Self regulation is defined as an ability to comply with a request, to start and cease acts according to situational demands, to adjust the strength, incidence, and duration of acts in social settings, to delay desired object or goal, and to perform socially accepted behaviors in the absence of external monitors (pp.190).

However, self-regulation is not only an internalization of external expectations, but it also includes the self-initiated behaviors and goals (Fitzsimons & Bargh, 2004). Although some researchers draw distinction among the concepts of self-regulation, self-criminal control, and self-discipline, these terms are often used interchangeably. Self-regulation is generally referred the broadest meaning, as it is comprised of both conscious and nonconscious forms of altering the self.

The term self-criminal control has also been used close to the term of self-regulation, although it implies more deliberate and conscious process of altering the self. Self­criminal control refers to the processes by which the self inhibits unwanted responses. It is also related to self-discipline, even though self-discipline is a much narrow concept referring to individual’s intentional plans in order to improve themselves in different domains (Baumeister, & Vohs, 2003).

The reviewed definitions of self-regulation have focused on the specific aspects of self-regulation construct with respect to their theoretical background. A complete review of existing conceptualizations is beyond the scope of the current study, but two basic perspectives will be reviewed briefly; the processes and the products (outcomes) of self-regulation.

  • Self-Regulation Process: Conscious or Automatic Responses?
  • Delay of Gratification

The questions of what self-regulation is and what it involves depend on the theoretical perspective adopted. From the social and motivational psychology perspectives, an answer could be the ability to criminal control and determine one’s own behaviors consciously and intentionally. The concept “delay of gratification” is one of the forms of self-regulation. According to Mischel and Ayduk (2004), the delay of gratification represents motivational process and the early form of self­regulation. The process of delaying gratification involves resistance to immediate temptation and regulation of impulsive behaviors typically in the context of more rewarding long-term goals. According to Funder, Block, and Block (1983), delay of gratification can be considered as a sub-form of the more general concept which is named as ego-criminal control. Those with high ego-criminal control can restrain or inhibit their impulses and postpone immediate gratifications. Without the ability to postpone the immediate gratification for the sake of eventual goals, people can not make plans for future, or work for long-term goals (Funder, Block, & Block, 1983). Fundamentally, this ability has an impact on self-regulation skills at the later period of life.

The delay of gratification ability has been used as the indicative of criminal control and different experimental paradigms were developed to assess this ability. The delay of gratification paradigm has been conventionally measured by using the two- choice delay tasks. In these tasks, children are asked to make a choice between an immediately available treat and a more attractive treat at a later time. For example, a child may have to choose between a small toy and a larger, more attractive one, depending on her/his willingness to wait before reaching them. The longer the child is able to wait, the larger her/his reward will be. Another form of two-choice task is called “waiting game” in which while sitting in front of the two rewards (exposed or covered), the child is told to wait until the experimenter returns to the room. If

 

the child successfully waits for the experimenter to return, s/he will get the larger and more preferred reward. If the child cannot wait the experimenter, he/she may ring the bell to call experimenter, but he/she will only receive the small and less desirable reward. Although these experimental paradigms could be effectively used for younger children (from 1 to 7-years of age), these paradigms are usually ineffective or even problematic for the older children.

There are several reasons regarding why the delay of gratification abilities of older children hasn’t been tested successfully. First, it is relatively difficult to have realistic and non-trivial incentives for older children and early adolescents. Second, the meaningful delay intervals for the older group can span for days or weeks rather than a few minutes used for delay tasks in young children. Therefore, the delay of gratification abilities of adolescents and adults, as the indicative of self­regulation, is rarely studied in the previous studies. The delay of gratification abilities were measured only in a few studies during late childhood. Wulfert, Block, Ana, Rodriguez, and Colsman (2002) measured delay of gratification abilities of early adolescents from 14 to 17 years old using monetary incentives. Employing the experimental procedure used by Funder and Block (1989), researchers offered adolescents repeated choices between immediate payments of $4 after each session or a whole payment ($28), including interest payment at the end of the study. They found that, compared to adolescents who could delay gratification, those who choose the immediate payment showed more self-regulatory deficits. According to authors, however, in money incentive procedure, because participants might not trust the experimenter and wanted to save money owed them; they might have chosen the immediate offering (less money) rather than long-term reward (more money) (Wulfert, Block, Anna, Rodriguez, and Colsman, 2002).

To better explain the delay of gratification process, Carver and Scheider

(1998) posited feedback loops in which individuals must become consciously aware

of the discrepancy between the current and desired self-states, then intentionally

choose to engage in action to ease this discrepancy. In a similar vein, in their “hot-

cool system” model, Metcalfe and Mischel (1999) stated that individuals must

consciously and intentionally attempt to criminal control their responses to overcome the

influences of the current environment. According to Metcalfe and Mischel (1999),

these two types of cognitive processing, namely hot and cool systems, involve

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distinct but yet interacting systems. The cool cognitive system is composed of a complex spatiotemporal and episodic representation and thoughts. It is also called as “know system”. The hot emotional system called “go system” involves quick emotional processing and responding on the basis of unconditional and conditional stimuli. Authors assert that self-regulation and goal-directed volition can be seen as the interaction between these two systems. The hot memory systems are activated and the cool systems are deactivated by a threatening stimulus. As a result, for example, when the hot system is activated by the delicious food cues for dieters, it is more difficult to postpone gratification.

  • Self-Regulatory Strength Model

A well-developed form of self-regulation involves a deliberate and conscious alteration of the self responses, such as making choices, inhibiting a tempting response, or making and carrying out plans. These actions and intensions require a source. According to the self-regulatory strength model proposed by Baumeister and colleagues (Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Muraven, & Tice, 1998; Baumeister, Heatherton, & Tice, 1994), these acts of the self requires some form of energy or strength which is limited in capacity. Each act of self-criminal control consumes some of this limited resource and leaves less amount of available energy for the subsequent acts. When this limited resource is depleted (referred to as the “ego depletion” state), self-regulation failure becomes more likely. The core premise of the self-regulatory strength model is that people depend on a limited resource to engage in the acts of self-criminal control. When this resource is reduced, the individual gets in a state of ego- depletion which makes him or her susceptible to self-regulation failure if the resource is not somehow replenished (Baumeister & Vohs, 2003).

The following two-task paradigm is used to manipulate self-regulatory strength in several “ego depletion” studies. Individuals in the ego depletion condition are asked to engage in two subsequent tasks both of which require the exertion of self-criminal control, such as resisting the temptation of eating delicious chocolate candies and eating radishes instead (the first task) and then trying to solve a difficult puzzle (the second task). In contrast, for the participants in the criminal control condition, only the second task that requires self-criminal control exertion is used (e.g., eating chocolates instead of radishes in the first task and working on a difficult

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THE IMPACT OF PARENTAL CONTROL, CRIMINAL AND MARITAL CONFLICT ON ADOLESCENTS’ SELF-REGULATION AND ADJUSTMENT

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