Parenting teenagers: relationships and behaviour

Improving services for parents and families in Scotland

Voluntary and public sector stakeholders from across Scotland recently came together for the first About Families forum event to explore how research can inform the development of services for supporting parents, including families affected by disability.

Over 40 delegates from organisations working directly with families, including the PAS partnership, shared ideas about how research gathered by About Families about relationships and behaviour issues in parenting teenagers can lead to action to meet the changing needs of families.

A recurrent theme during the event was the need to make better use of existing resources for parents. This sentiment was the driving force behind the creation of About Families, which was formed in response to voluntary sector organisations' wishes to access and make use of existing research. In the current financial climate, making best use of existing resources to maximise effectiveness is even more crucial, particularly as reports indicate that more parents may need more support due to increasing pressures on family life.

A lack of government support for parents of teenagers was widely felt, with many delegates pointing to a 'policy gap' on parenting in general and parenting teenagers in particular. It was generally thought that resources and attention are directed towards the early years, and while delegates clearly recognised the value of this, they called for parenting to take a more prominent place on the policy agenda. Without such a presence, it was thought that sustainability and continuity of services would continue to be at risk. For supporting parents of disabled children, this issue was considered of particular risk during transition stages, which can be lengthy.

Another pressing theme was how to communicate findings and information about parenting teenagers to parents in ways which are engaging and accessible to different types of families. The importance of developing and providing services in a non-stigmatising and accessible way underlined much discussion.

What next?

Over the next few months, About Families will work with a number of these stakeholders to develop action plans to respond to the needs they have identified arising from the evidence around parenting teenagers. Together, these organisations and project staff will also explore how service users could be involved in developing services. We will continue to work with stakeholders to implement and then evaluate their action plans.

Topic one: Parenting teenagers: relationships and behaviour

Some key themes arising from research review:

  • Conflict can play a useful role in family life but parents need support to cope.
  • Communication contributes to positive outcomes for teenagers.
  • Parents cope best when they can see growing independence as both healthy and appropriate.
  • Parents feel most satisfied when they feel supportive, warm and affectionate towards their teen, as well as enjoying seeing them develop socially.
  • Parents agreeing over how they parent together is more important than who does what or how much.
  • After separation and re-partnering, a teenager's relationships with their stepfather and father can be affected by their emotional relationship with their mother.
  • Communication often works better than coercion in monitoring teenage activities.
  • The type of information parents and teenagers share is closely related to the areas where both feel the parent has some authority.
  • Disabled parents and parents of disabled teenagers told us that these themes generally reflect their experiences of family life with teenagers. Differences they highlighted include more shared responsibilities, higher levels of communication and greater emphasis on enjoying seeing their teen develop socially.

The full report, Parenting teenagers: relationships and behaviour, and a briefing are available to download.

About Families is a partnership between the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR), Capability Scotland and Parenting across Scotland.

About Families is funded by the National Lottery through Big Lottery Fund.

More information: Karen Seditas, CRFR,