Has parenting changed over recent decades? Do parents supervise and control their offspring more or less closely than they used to? Do they show more or less parental involvement? Spend more or less time caring for young people, in conversation and joint activities? Can changes in parenting explain the rise in adolescent problem behaviour?

This investigation into changes in parenting and the relationship with young people's behaviour was the first of our Changing Adolescence Programme research reviews to report. The findings were published in a briefing paper in July 2009.

Main findings

  • Parents of teenagers are doing a good job, and poor parenting is not the reason for the increase in problem behaviour amongst teenagers.
  • There is no evidence of a general decline in parenting.
  • Differences in parenting according to family structure and income have narrowed over the last 25 years.
  • The task of parenting is changing and could be getting increasingly stressful, particularly for some groups.
  • Parents and teenagers are choosing to spend more quality time together than 25 years ago, with 70% of young people regularly spending time with their mothers in 2006 compared to 62% in 1986. For fathers, the figure had increased from 47% to 52%.
  • Today’s parents are more likely to know where their teenage children are and what they are doing than their 1980s equivalents. In 2006, 85% of parents routinely asked their children where they were going, compared to 79% in 1986. Similarly, the proportion asking what their children were doing has increased from 47% in 1986 to 66% in 2006.
  • Differences in the monitoring of teenage children, according to family type and income, have narrowed. For example in 1994, 14-15 year olds from single parent families were more likely to be out late without their parents knowing where compared with two parent families, but by 2005 this difference had disappeared.
  • Parents of teenagers are increasingly likely to report symptoms of depression and anxiety themselves, particularly one-parent families and those on low incomes. For example, the proportion of parents from the most economically disadvantaged group who reported symptoms of depression and anxiety had increased by more than 50% between 1986 and 2006.
Project details



Professor Frances Gardner, University of Oxford

Dr Stephan Collishaw, Cardiff University

Professor Barbara Maughan, King's College London

Professor Jacqueline Scott, University of Cambridge 



Journal articles

‘Do changes in parent mental health explain trends in youth emotional problems’, Schepman et al, Social Science & Medicine, Volume 73, Issue 2, July 2011.

‘Do Historical Changes in Parent–Child Relationships Explain Increases in Youth Conduct Problems?’, Collishaw et al, Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, Volume 1 / 1973 - Volume 39 / 2011.

Briefing paper

Time trends in parenting and outcomes for young people, Dr Ann Hagell, Nuffield Foundation 2009

Download briefing paper (PDF)

Working paper

Has parenting changed over recent decades? Can changes in parenting explain the rise in adolescent problem behaviour? Professor Frances Gardner, Dr Stephan Collishaw, Professor Barbara Maughan, Professor Jacqueline Scott (2009) 

Download working paper (PDF)

Please note this working paper is undergoing revision and will result in several different publications. It is not for citation in current form