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Parent's Friendships Model Adolescent Relationships

Update Date: Nov 06, 2013 04:45 PM EST

Parent's friendships with other adults can influence their children's relationships with kids, according to a new study.

Researchers said this is particularly true when it comes to negative aspects of these relationships like conflict and antagonism.

New research reveals that adolescents copy the negative characteristics of their mothers' relationships in their own peer-to-peer friendships. Researchers said this suggests that mothers can serve as role models for their adolescents during influential years.

"Mothers who display high levels of conflict with friends may signal to their children that such behavior is acceptable, or even normative in friendships," Gary C. Glick, a doctoral candidate at University of Missouri said in a news release. "Additional findings suggest that adolescents internalize their reactions to their mothers' conflict with adult friends which may lead to anxiety and depression."

In the past, researchers focused on elementary-aged children. However, researchers in the latest study wanted to expand their study to focus on the formative adolescent years.

Researchers surveyed young people ages 10 to 17. The study polled mothers separately to measure perceived positive and negative friendship qualities in both groups.

While positive friendship qualities were not always imitated by a adolescents, researchers found that negative and antagonistic relationship characteristics exhibited by mothers were much more likely to be mimicked by the youth studied.

"We know that conflict is a normal part of any relationship-be it a relationship between a parent and a child, or a mother and her friends-and we're not talking physical altercations but verbal conflicts," Glick said.

"But being exposed to high levels of such conflict generally isn't going to be good for children. Parents should consider whether they are good role models for their children especially where their friends are concerned. When things go awry, parents should talk with their children about how to act with their friends, but more specifically, how not to act," he added.

The findings are published in the Journal of Research on Adolescence

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