Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 27, Issue 7, pp 2206–2216 | Cite as

Parental Psychological Control and Adolescent Problem Behaviors: The Role of Depressive Symptoms

  • Katelyn F. Romm
  • Aaron Metzger
Original Paper


Parental psychological control has consistently been linked to greater engagement in problem behaviors among adolescents, including over-eating behaviors, under-eating behaviors, risky cyber behaviors, and substance use. Previous research has suggested that child characteristics, such as temperament, may moderate this association. However, little research has examined characteristics of the adolescent that may place them at greater risk for experiencing such problem behaviors as a result of psychologically controlling parenting. Therefore, the current study examined the role of adolescents’ depressive symptoms as a risk factor (moderator) for the association between parental psychological control and adolescent problem behaviors. Participants included 161 adolescents (Mage = 14.42, SD = 1.73; 80.7% Caucasian; 59.6% female) living in a University city in a Mid-Atlantic state. Participants completed survey questionnaires about parental psychological control, problematic eating behaviors, risky cyber behaviors, substance use, and depressive symptoms. Results indicated that psychological control was significantly and positively associated with under-eating behaviors. Psychological control was also found to be associated positively with risky cyber behaviors and substance use, but only for adolescents who reported greater depressive symptoms. The findings provide support for the role of depressive symptoms as a risk factor for the associations between psychological control and problem behaviors among adolescents.


Parental psychological control Depressive symptoms Adolescent problem behaviors 


Author Contributions

K.R. conceived of the study, conducted data analyses, and wrote the paper. A.M. made substantial intellectual and conceptual contributions to the design of the project, collaborated with the writing of the paper, aided in statistical analyses, and edited the final manuscript.


This research was supported via internal funding through West Virginia University.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

The current study was approved by the Institutional Review Board for West Virginia University.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. All participating youth gave informed consent prior to their participation. In addition, parental permission and consent was obtained from the parents of all youth under 18 years of age.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyWest Virginia UniversityMorgantownUSA

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