Frequency of Communication About Adolescents’ Strengths and Weaknesses and the Parent-Adolescent Relationship


Pool, Andrew & Ford, Carol (2018). Frequency of Communication About Adolescents' Strengths and Weaknesses and the Parent-Adolescent Relationship.


Background: Despite prior research indicating parents and adolescents perceive conversations about the adolescent’s strengths and weaknesses to be important, information about these conversations and how they are related to other facets of the parent-adolescent relationship is limited. Adolescents may be especially sensitive to feedback about their efforts and achievements, which could influence future parent-child interactions and communication. Amemiya & Wang (2018) posit that adolescents may respond this way to isolated effort praise because adolescents they believe that high performing or high achieving adolescents can apply less effort to achieve tasks because of an increased innate ability. Therefore, if effort is needed to achieve or perform on a task, adolescents may internalize the belief they have low innate ability, consequently feeling less motivation to learn and to overcome failures (Amemiya & Wang, 2018). Methods: We conducted an initial exploratory study examining the self-reported frequencies of parent-adolescent discussions about the adolescents’ strengths and weaknesses in a sample of 171 parent-adolescent dyads (adolescents were 14-17 years old) by sociodemographic variables (e.g., age, race, sex), and adolescents’ disclosure, parent-adolescent relationship quality, and general communication quality. Results: Within-dyad reports were correlated. Adolescents’ reports of strengths and weaknesses did not differ by adolescents’ sex, age, and race. However, parent reports of weaknesses, but not strengths, varied by adolescents’ race and age. Parents of older adolescents reported more frequent communication about weaknesses than parents of younger adolescents (p=0.03), and parents of minority adolescents reported more frequent of communication about weaknesses than parents of Caucasian adolescents (p<0.001). Spearman’s rank correlations and mixed-effects regression models suggested that the frequency of communication about strengths, but not the frequency of weaknesses, was associated with parent-adolescent general communication, adolescent disclosure, and relationship quality. Specifically, more frequent communication about strengths was associated with stronger relationship quality, more disclosure, and better general communication, regardless of reporter (parent or teen). Conclusions and Implications: These results extend literature relating to the effectiveness of positive youth models (Larson, 2000) and may be important not only for parent-adolescent relationships, but also for other adult-adolescent relationships (e.g., coaches, teachers), as research has shown that the way in which critique or feedback is delivered can be extremely influential in adolescents’ beliefs and identity formation (Amemiya & Wang, 2018). While not tested in the current study, using a strengths-based approach to delivering feedback or critique might result in better self-efficacy and self-esteem for adolescents; this will be addressed in future research.

Reference Type

Conference paper

Book Title

Society for Research in Child Development


Pool, Andrew
Ford, Carol

Year Published


City of Publication

Philadelphia, PA

Reference ID