Frustrated parents who are frequently at odds with an argumentative adolescent might take heart from the findings of new research on teens, their moms and their friends.
It seems that not all disagreements are bad. In fact, teens who express their own views in discussions with mom — even if they disagree — are more likely to resist peer pressure to use drugs or alcohol, the study discovered.
"What we find is the right kind of argument is one where a teen and the parent are trying to persuade each other with calm reasoning," explained lead author Joseph Allen, the Hugh P. Kelly Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia.
Essentially, the kids who express their own points of view in the right way are practising an important life skill.
Allen said teens need to learn to stand up for themselves somewhere, and those who learn to do so in the right way with their parents are actually much better suited to do it well with their peers.
The study is published in the journal Child Development.
The researchers videotaped the teens and their parents discussing a disagreement, and then observed and coded the information to understand what was happening.
"And what we found was that what teens learn at home in terms of handling disagreements, they largely take into their interactions with their peers," Allen said in an interview from Charlottesville, Va.
"So if they learn to be calm and confident and persuasive at home, they'll do the same thing with their peers."
On the other hand, if they use bullying, whining and pressure — or just withdraw — when there's a disagreement, they'll do the same thing with their friends.
The study was only done with moms because there were more families with mothers, due to divorces and the rates of single-parent families, but Allen said it's possible the same process applies to interactions with dads.