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Parent/Teen Relations: Where's the Grief?

by Joseph Carroll, Gallup Poll Assistant Editor

Contrary to popular belief, today's teen-agers and parents seem to get along reasonably well. In a 2000 Gallup Youth Survey*, nearly all teens surveyed reported getting along at least fairly well with their parents. Not only do most teens say that their parents spend time with them discussing school and interests, but a majority say their parents make it a point to eat dinner with them and spend time with them on the weekends.

The 2000 survey* revealed that 97% of teens say they get along with their parents, 54% saying "very well" and 43% saying "fairly well." Gallup has asked teens this question since 1977 and found similar results each time.

The majority of U.S. adults also feel that they have good relationships with their parents. A Gallup poll conducted in May 2001** indicated that 93% of adults have positive relationships with their mothers, including 76% who said "very" positive. Similar results were found in May 2000. The May 2000 poll*** found that most adults also report having positive relationships with their fathers, though not quite as positive as the relationships with their mothers. Eighty-three percent (83%) of adults said that they have positive relationships with their fathers, with 59% saying "very" positive.

Teens, too, tend to get along better with their mothers than they do their fathers. The most recent findings* show that 56% of teens say they get along better with their mothers, while only 25% say they get along better with their fathers (see graph above). Mothers have fared significantly better than have fathers since Gallup began asking the question in 1977. That year, teen focus group participants cited the perception of fathers as more authoritarian as a factor in that finding. In the 2000 survey, only 16% say they get along with both parents equally, less than half the number (34%) who said the same 25 years ago^.

A 1997 Gallup Youth Survey^^ provides further evidence that the relationships between American teens and their parents are strong. Three in four teens (75%) said that their parents usually know what is happening at their school, and the same percentage (75%) also said that they often talk to adults about things that interest or trouble them.

Additionally,

  • Roughly seven in 10 teens (71%) said their family usually eats at least one meal together each day, and 69% said they really enjoy mealtime.
  • Sixty-eight percent (68%) of teens said an adult is usually home when they get home from school each day.
  • A slight majority of teens (55%) say that their families do things together on the weekends.
  • Teens would like to spend still more time with their parents. Sixty-eight percent (68%) say they want to spend more time with their fathers, 64% with their mothers.

Finally, the October 2001^^^ Gallup Youth Survey asked American teen-agers to identify a person whom they admire for their achievements and their strong moral character. At the top of the list are family members (23%), coming out far ahead of the next two choices: sports figures (10%) and musicians (8%).

*Findings are based on telephone interviews with a representative national cross section of 501 American teen-agers, ages 13 to 17, conducted August-October 2000. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points.
**Findings are based on telephone interviews with a representative national cross section of 1,005 American adults, age 18 and older, conducted May 7-9, 2001. Sampling error: ±3%.  
***Findings are based on telephone interviews with a representative national cross section of 1,031 American adults, age 18 and older, conducted May 5-7, 2000. Sampling error: ±3%.  
^Findings are based on telephone interviews with a representative national cross section of 1,069 American teen-agers, ages 13 to 18, conducted April 16-24, 1977. Sampling error: ±3%.  
^^Findings are based on telephone interviews with a representative national cross section of 491 American teen-agers, ages 13 to 17, conducted November 1996 through June 1997. Sampling error: ±5%.  
^^^Findings are based on telephone interviews with a representative national cross section of 500 American teen-agers, ages 13 to 17, conducted August-October 2000. Sampling error: ±5%.

Gallup


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