How Do Parents Learn About Adolescents' Experiences? Implications for Parental Knowledge and Adolescent Risky Behavior


  • This research was supported by a grant from the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (R01-HD32336), Susan McHale and Ann Crouter, co-principal investigators. The authors are grateful to their collaborators: Christina Chhin, Aryn Dotterer, Melissa Fortner, Heather Helms, Kristen Johnston, Marni Kan, Ji-Yeon Kim, Mary Maguire Klute, Jaime Marks, Ashleigh May, Carolyn Ransford, Lilly Shanahan, Cindy Shearer, Corinna Jenkins Tucker, Kim Updegraff, Shawn Whiteman, and Megan Winchell and to the dedicated families who participated in the research.

concerning this articles should be addressed to Ann Crouter, Center for Work and Family Research, 105 White Building, The Pennysylvania State University, University Park, PA, 16802. Electronic mail may be sent to


Cluster analysis was used to identify groups defined by the patterning of fathers' and mothers' sources of knowledge about adolescents' experiences in a sample of 179 families with adolescents (M=16.5 years). Three clusters emerged for fathers (relational, relies on spouse, relies on others) and mothers (relational, questioners, relies on others). Cluster membership was associated with socioeconomic status, work hours, personal characteristics, and parent–child relationship quality. Longitudinal path analyses revealed that knowledge sources predicted levels of knowledge, which in turn predicted risky behavior 1 year later, indirect paths that were more consistent for fathers than for mothers. Although direct associations between sources of knowledge and subsequent risky behavior were scant, when fathers relied on spouses, youth engaged in less risky behavior.