Adolescents' and Mothers' Understanding of Children's Rights in the Home

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Abstract

Adolescents' and mothers' understanding of children's self-determination and nurturance rights was examined in the context of the home. In individual interviews, 141 sixth, eighth, and tenth graders and their mothers responded to hypothetical vignettes in which a child story character wished to exercise a right that conflicted with parental practices. For each vignette, participants were asked to judge whether the story character should have the right in question and to provide a justification for their decision. Generally, eighth and tenth graders were more likely than their mothers to endorse requests for self-determination and less likely than their mothers to support requests for nurturance. Mothers of tenth graders were more likely to support requests for self-determination and less likely to favor adolescents' request for nurturance in the home than were mothers of sixth and eighth graders. In terms of reasoning, adolescents and mothers were more likely to consider the individuals' rights when discussing self-determination situations, whereas nurturance situations elicited responses pertaining to participants' understanding of familial roles and relationships. Furthermore, mothers' reasoning about childrenÕs rights reflected sensitivity to the developmental level of their children. The findings are discussed in terms of previous research on the development of children's understanding of rights and adolescent autonomy.

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