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Parenting Practices and Adolescent Risky Driving

Parenting Practices and Adolescent Risky Driving

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Published by: Estrada Viva / Sobrevivência Rodoviária on Jul 10, 2008
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Health Education & Behavior(April 2002)
Hartos et al. / Adolescent Risky Driving
Parenting Practices and Adolescent Risky
Driving: A Three-Month Prospective Study

Jessica Hartos, PhD
Patricia Eitel, PhD
Bruce Simons-Morton, EdD, MPH

This study examined relations between risky driving, parenting, and deviance, and the stability of risky driv- ing over time. Two hundred and sixty-one licensed adolescents completed telephone interviews about risky driving, parenting practices, and orientations toward deviance at baseline and about risky driving at follow-up 3 months later. The results indicated that risky driving at follow-up was predicted by risky driving at baseline, parental restrictions on driving, and sensation seeking. In addition, risky driving was stable within 80% of teens. When compared with adolescents with low risky driving over time (n = 129), adolescents with high risky driving over time (n = 79) were 3 times more likely to reportlow parental monitoring, 2 times more likely to reportlow parental restrictions, and almost 5 times more likely to reporthigh deviance acceptance. The results suggest that high levels of risky driving are related to parenting.

Motor vehicle crashes are the major cause of death and injury among adolescents aged 16 through 20, resulting in more than 5,000 deaths.1Crash rates among adolescents aged 16 through 19 are higher than those of any other age-group.2-5Moreover, adolescents are more likely to be at fault in crashes when compared to more experienced drivers.3,4,6

One contributor to this high crash rate is adolescents\u2019 propensity for risky behaviors.3 Compared with older drivers, adolescent drivers report more risky driving behaviors such as speeding, following too closely, rapid accelerations, and weaving in between other vehicles.3,7 These and other aggressive maneuvers heighten the likelihood of traffic viola- tions and motor vehicle crashes. In addition, adolescents perceive less danger in hazard- ous situations and report more confidence (overconfidence) in their driving abilities than do older drivers.7-9

Research suggests that risky driving behaviors among adolescents are part of an over- all adolescent problem behavior syndrome characterized by \u201cunconventionality\u201d or their orientations toward deviance or risky behaviors.10 As with other adolescent problem behaviors (e.g., substance use and deviance), adolescents\u2019 risky driving behaviors have been linked to such individual characteristics as sensation seeking, low self-control, toler- ance of social deviance, and having problem-behaving friends.11-18 However, risky driv- ing may have less to do with unconventionality and more to do with youthful inexperience

Jessica Hartos is a research fellow at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Bethesda, Maryland. Patricia Eitel is a strategic planner at Ogilvy & Mather, New York. Bruce Simons-Morton is chief of the Prevention Research Branch, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Bethesda, Maryland.

Address reprint requests toJessica Hartos, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development,
6100 Executive Blvd., Room 7B05 MSC 7510, Bethesda, MD 20892-7510; phone: (301) 435-6932; fax: (301)
402-2084; e-mail: jessica_hartos@nih.gov.
Health Education & Behavior, Vol. 29 (2): 194-206 (April 2002)
\u00a9 2002 by SOPHE

and enthusiasm. Clearly, licensure is a rite of passage that provides adolescents with increased potential for independence and autonomy. As with other adolescent privileges, parents are needed to place limits and expectations on the behaviors of their adolescents for positive adjustment.

The influence of parenting on adolescent driving has not been examined thoroughly. However, much research is devoted to the benefits of authoritative parenting on adoles- cent development.19This parenting style is characterized by responsiveness (the extent to which a parent responds to a child\u2019s needs in an accepting and supportive manner) and demandingness (the extent to which a parent expects and demands responsible behavior from a child). \u201cAuthoritative\u201d parents allow adolescents to exercise their autonomy and self-reliance within structured standards, limits, and guidelines for appropriate behavior.

Thus, parenting practices such as monitoring (i.e., knowing where adolescents are and what they are doing) and behavioral control (i.e., having rules and expectations about adolescents\u2019 behaviors) could have an impact on adolescents\u2019 responsible driving. Paren- tal monitoring and behavioral control have been found to be inversely associated with other adolescent problem behaviors such as substance use and deviant behavior.20-25Fur- thermore, these problem behaviors are shown to be related to risky driving behaviors.26-28

In addition, parents\u2019 restriction of adolescent driving privileges may have an impact on their responsible driving. Parents are involved in their adolescents\u2019 driving from the beginning, teaching themto drive, and governing their access to vehicles.29 Many adoles- cents report that parents have expectations such as \u201cdon\u2019t drink and drive,\u201d \u201ctell parents where you are going and with whom,\u201d and \u201cbe home at a certain time.\u201d The little research in the area suggests that low levels of parental awareness of adolescent drink- ing and having few parental restrictions on driving are associated with adolescent drinking and driving.30,31

Parenting practices such as parental monitoring, behavioral control, and restrictions on driving may be protective against adolescents\u2019 risky driving practices during the for- mative period (i.e., first years of unsupervised driving) when young drivers are develop- ing their driving behaviors. Therefore, an exploratory study was conducted to examine the relations between adolescents\u2019 risky driving, parenting practices, and orientations toward deviance. In addition, the stability of driving over time and its relations to parenting practices and orientations toward deviance were explored.


A convenience sample was recruited for this exploratory study from several high schools in two Maryland school districts. Three hundred adolescents with a driver\u2019s license returned signed consent forms and completed baseline interviews over the tele- phone. Two hundred sixty-five (83%) of them completed follow-up interviews over the telephone 3 months later. Information for 4 adolescents was dropped because of insuffi- cient data; thus, this article reports findings from 261 adolescents.

Investigators solicited participation in several high schools from adolescents with a
driver\u2019s license to participate in telephone surveys concerning their driving behaviors and
Hartos et al. / Adolescent Risky Driving

parent-adolescent relationships. In return, adolescents would receive a gift certificate to a local music store, and their name would be included in a drawing for a $100.00 gift certifi- cate to a local mall. Participation was voluntary, and parental consent and adolescent assent were obtained according to procedures approved by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Institutional Review Board.

On their consent forms, adolescents listed contact information and convenient inter- view times. Before interviews, trained research assistants assured adolescents that their responses were confidential. Adolescents responded to questions with numbered response choices so that no one around could understand their answers. At baseline, ado- lescents were asked questions about demographic information, risky driving behaviors, parenting practices, and orientations toward deviance. Interviews took approximately 20 minutes to complete. Adolescents were recontacted 3 months after their first interviews and asked about risky driving behaviors. Follow-up interviews took approximately 10 minutes to complete.

Risky Driving Behaviors. An index of risky driving behaviors was adapted from work

by Donovan.26Adolescents reported the number of times that they drove in the last 3 weeks and how often they performed each of 22 risky driving behaviors. Risky driving behavior items are listed in Table 1, and Cronbach\u2019s coefficient alpha for responses on these items was .88 at baseline and .81 at the 3-month follow-up.

Parental Restrictions on Driving. Adolescents responded on a 4-point scale from
strongly disagreeto strongly agreeto five items about whether their parents had specific

driving rules for them. These were where they could go in the car, who could ride with them, how late they can be out with the car, not driving aggressively, and not drinking and driving. The alpha for adolescents\u2019 baseline responses was .74.

Parental Monitoring. An index for parental monitoring or involvement was adapted
from work by Hetherington.32Adolescents responded on a 3-point scale fromalmost
nothingto a lotto seven items about how much their parents knew about their daily activi-

ties. Items were how they spend their time after school and on weekends, how late they stay out at night, who their friends are, their activities (sports, clubs, hobbies), their health habits (sleep, eat, exercise), how they are doing in school, and their school life (teachers, problems, homework, grades). The alpha for baseline responses was .60.

Parental Control. An index for parental behavioral control was adapted from work on
parenting styles.19,32,33Adolescents responded on a 4-point scale fromstrongly disagree to
strongly agreeto seven items concerning parents\u2019 expectations and direction of adoles-

cents\u2019 behaviors. Sample items were \u201cbelieves in having rules and sticking to them\u201d and \u201cchecks up to see whether I have done what he or she told me to do.\u201d The alpha for base- line responses was .68.

Deviance Acceptance. An index for deviance acceptance was adapted from work by

Simons-Morton.34Adolescents responded on a 3-point scale (yes,maybe,no) to whether \u201cit was OK\u201d for adolescents to do eight risky behaviors. These were smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, using illegal drugs, cheating on school tests, bullying/picking on other

196Health Education & Behavior (April 2002)

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