Parental monitoring and adolescent problem behaviors: How much do we really know?

Loes Keijsers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This article aims to provide a critical analysis of how much we know about the effectiveness of parental monitoring in preventing adolescent delinquency. First, it describes the historical developments in parental monitoring research. Second, it explains why it is uncertain whether causal inferences can be drawn from contemporary research findings on the link of parenting and adolescent problem behaviors. Third, it is empirically demonstrated, using Random-Intercept Cross-Lagged Models, how distinguishing between-person and within-person associations may alter or strengthen conclusions regarding the links of parental monitoring and adolescent disclosure with adolescent delinquency. Previously detected correlations between parental monitoring and adolescent delinquency were not present at the within-family level. However, there were significant associations between within-person fluctuations in disclosure and delinquency. Together, these models provide stronger evidence for a potential causal link between disclosure and delinquency, but also suggest that previously detected linkages of parental monitoring and delinquency can be explained by stable between-person differences rather than causal processes operating within families.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271-281
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Development
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by a research fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2015.


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