MONTREAL — They may be of a common age, but when it comes to dealing with Mom and Dad, it seems some teens in Canada are given more freedom by their parents compared to peers in France and Italy, a new study suggests.
Researchers in the three countries conducted a study comparing two major aspects or dimensions of parenting — emotional bonding and control — as perceived by youngsters between the ages of 11 and 19.
Teens surveyed in Quebec, France and Italy were selected for the comparison because they have a number of social and cultural factors in common, including Latin languages, the Catholic religion and advanced industrialization.
A cross-sectional sample of more than 1,200 adolescents of both genders whose parents were born in their respective countries of residence filled out a questionnaire. Respondents included 522 teens from Montreal, 336 from the French city of Rennes and 398 Italians from Milan.
The study, published in the Journal of Adolescence, looked at teens’ perception of their emotional bonding with their mother and father, using measures associated with the concept such as communication and frequency of conflict.
Researchers from the University of Montreal, the University of Ottawa, Universite de Rennes in France and Italy’s Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore also explored the perception of adolescents of behavioural control as exerted by their parents.
This involved using measures like the presence of rules, tolerance of friend-related activities and disciplinary actions when rules aren’t respected.
Researchers found that compared to their European counterparts, the Canadian teens reported less behavioural control, more permissive disciplinary actions and more tolerance of friend-related activities from their mothers and fathers.
When it came to emotional bonding with moms, there were no differences among the three countries, with each respective nation perceiving mothers as “affectionate, warm, and communicative.”
The same goes for Canadian and Italian dads who were perceived as displaying “high levels” of both emotional bonding and communication.
However, the researchers wrote that analysis of the data yielded an “unanticipated trend” — that Italian moms and dads were seen as the most strict when it came to parental behavioural control, and more demanding in terms of family rules and authorizations.
What’s more, Italian parents were seen by their teens as taking more punitive actions when rules were broken and being far less tolerant of friend-related activities. They were also perceived to maintain rules requiring teens to ask for authorizations or permission for things until a later age.
“Although both Canadian and Italian adolescents perceive high levels of emotional bonding with their mothers and fathers, their perceptions of their parents’ behavioural control are quite different,” the researchers wrote.
“There are lower levels of rules, more tolerance and permissiveness perceived in Canadian parents, while there are more requirements, less tolerance, and stricter disciplinary actions perceived in Italian parents.”
Compared to Canada and Italy, the profile of French fathers exhibited lower levels of emotional bonding and communication, as well as more frequent conflict.
So what accounts for the differences among perceived parenting styles in the three countries? Researchers seem to suggest that North America’s emphasis on individualism and independence may be the difference.
While the Canadian participants may be French-speaking and live in the “cultural and socially distinct context” of Quebec, they’re seen as sharing “the individualistic and independent values that characterize North American culture.”