Until now, little research has been conducted on the association between parents' friendships and the emotional well-being of their adolescent children. A new study from researchers at the University of Missouri suggests that mothers' friendships with other adults can impact their adolescent children's relationships with their own friends, particularly the negative aspects of these relationships such as conflict and antagonism.
The research found that adolescents may mimic the negative characteristics of their mothers' relationships in their own peer-to-peer friendships suggesting that mothers can serve as role models for their adolescents during formative 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," Glick said. "Additional findings suggest that adolescents internalize their reactions to their mothers' conflict with adult friends which may lead to anxiety and depression."
"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," said Gary C. Glick, a doctoral candidate at MU and a lead researcher of the study. "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."