A US study found that arguing gives teenagers confidence and negotiating skills and that those who regularly argue with their parents cope better with peer pressure and are less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol. They are also more skilled negotiators and can ‘learn to be taken more seriously’ after debating with their elders.
Scientists from the University of Virginia observed and made audio and video recordings of 150 13-year-olds arguing with their mothers. They then quizzed the teenagers three years later about their lives and experiences with drugs and alcohol. Teenagers who displayed confidence and used reason to back up their statements in the arguments were more likely to have refused both, the researchers found. University of Virginia psychology professor Joseph Allen, lead author of the study, said the connection between resisting peer pressure and a teenager’s ability to argue was ‘surprising’.
He added: ‘It turns out that what goes on in the family is actually a training ground for teens in terms of how to negotiate with other people.’
Joanna Chango, a clinical psychology graduate working on the study, said that although it seemed ‘counterintuitive’ to tell parents to let their teens argue with them, it was worth considering.
The study, published in the Child Development journal, did say that parents should have ‘good reasons presented in a moderate way’ during the row so they can set a good example, instead of slamming doors like the teenager might.
Source: Child Development Volume 83, Issue 1, pages 337–350, January/February 2012.