International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine vol:46 issue:3 pages:243-270
Objective: This study explored direct and indirect associations between adolescents’ somatization, parenting stress, and three parenting behaviors (warmth, psychological control, and harsh punishment). First, the associations were explored cross-sectionally. Second, significant cross-sectional links were further examined longitudinally in order to decide upon temporality.
Method: A total of 1499 adolescents and one of their parents (mostly the mother) agreed to participate. Questionnaires were administered when the child was respectively 12-13 (T1), 13-14 (T2), and 14-15 (T3) years
old. Adolescents reported on their somatization, parents on their parenting behavior and parenting stress. Results: Cross-sectionally, indirect links were found between all parenting behaviors and adolescents’ somatization, through parenting stress. Longitudinal examination revealed two key aspects. First, parenting stress significantly predicted somatization. Higher T1 parenting stress was predictive for higher T2 and T3 somatization. When controlled for T1 parenting stress, higher T2 parenting stress (or in other words increased parenting stress at T2) was predictive for lower T3 somatization. Second, parenting stress was found to significantly predict parenting behaviors. Higher T1 parenting stress was predictive for higher T2 and T3 harsh punishment but increased parenting stress at T2 was predictive for lower harsh punishment one year later. Higher T1 parenting stress significantly predicted higher T2 psychological control. Conclusions: Clinicians should be aware that parenting stress may be a risk factor for the development of somatization in early adolescence. However, in later adolescence, increased parenting stress might be protective.