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Survey: 86% of teens closely monitored by parents

April 27, 2023

About 86% of teens feel they are monitored closely by their parents or caregivers, which has been linked to engaging in fewer risky behaviors, according to a new study.

“Parents have an important role to play in the promotion of healthy adolescent behaviors that can influence developmental trajectories and health outcomes,” researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wrote in a new Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The data come from the 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a nationally representative survey of U.S. high school students. The teens were asked how often parents or adults in their family know where they are going and with whom.

Those who said always or most of the time were considered to have high parental monitoring, while those who said never, rarely or sometimes were deemed to have low parental monitoring.

About 89% of females and 84% of males reported high monitoring. Looking at race/ethnicity data, Asian teens reported the highest rates of high monitoring at 91%, while rates were lowest for Black teens at 80%. Rates of high monitoring were reported by about 88% of heterosexual teens and 84% of lesbian, gay and bisexual teens.

Researchers also looked at the relationship between monitoring levels and teen behaviors. They found teens with high monitoring were less likely to have had sex, misuse prescription opioids, use marijuana or have experienced electronic bullying or forced sex compared to teens with low monitoring.

Monitoring also was linked with mental health. Students were less likely to report persistent feelings of sadness or to have attempted suicide in the past 12 months if they were monitored closely.

“This link aligns … with other research on family relationships and connectedness, suggesting that monitoring knowledge expressed by students is likely the result of positive relationships rather than parental control of activities,” authors wrote. “In fact, parental monitoring strategies that facilitate involvement, information sharing, and parental warmth and support have demonstrated potential for reducing risks for poor mental health outcomes.”

The study was one of 10 the CDC released Thursday analyzing data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Others covered witnessing gun violence, housing stability, suicide, sexual behaviors, dating violence, diet and physical activity, and substance use. Earlier this year, the CDC released data from the survey showing teen girls are experiencing record high levels of violence and persistent sadness.

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