When parents expect their teenagers to conform to negative stereotypes, those teens are in fact more likely to do so, according to new research by professor of psychology Christy Buchanan.
"Parents who believe they are simply being realistic might actually contribute to a self-fulfilling prophecy," says Buchanan, who studies adolescent development and behavior. "Negative expectations on the part of both parents and children predict more negative behaviors later on."
In her study, published in the Journal of Research on Adolescence, Buchanan found that adolescents whose mothers expected them to take more risks and be more rebellious reported higher levels of risk-taking behavior than their peers one year later. The same was true for adolescents' negative expectations.
"By thinking risk-taking or rebelliousness is normal for teenagers and conveying that to their children, parents might add to other messages from society that make teenagers feel abnormal if they are not willing to take risks or break laws. This can mean, for example, that when parents expect teens to drink before they turn 21 or to engage in other risky behaviors, kids are less likely to resist societal pressures to do so."