For example while young children require close

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For example, while young children require close proximity and physical availability of parents to provide comfort when they are distressed, adolescents do not need the same degree of proximity and can derive comfort from knowing their parents are supportive even when they are not present. However, parental sensitivity and attunement continue to be essential in maintaining attachment security during adolescence, especially in the domain of autonomy needs (51). The ability of parents to sustain a ‘goal-directed partnership’ with their child also remains critical, and is particularly challenging because conflict between parents and children increases during adolescence (68). Conflict itself is not a sign of poor relationship quality, because it will unquestionably arise in healthy relationships as parents exert appropriate levels of behavioral control over their adolescents, negotiating increasing responsibility as competence develops (69). However, growing evidence suggests that the capacity of parents and their adolescent children to maintain ‘relatedness’ while disagreeing on critical issues is the hallmark of attachment security (70). Maintaining relatedness is captured by specific parent-adolescent behaviors during disagreements, including confidently stating one’s own opinion, and validating and showing empathy for the other person’s point of view (51).
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In summary, while the presence of conflict in the parent adolescent relationship is normal, how the parent-adolescent dyad negotiates conflicts and sustains their relationship is diagnostic. Adolescents who feel understood by their parents and trust their commitment to the relationship, even in the face of conflict, confidently move forward toward early adulthood. These securely attached adolescents do not avoid conflict, exploration and individuation, nor do they prematurely push to independence without the support of their parents. SUPPORTING ADOLESCENTS AND THEIR FAMILIES It is critical that the myth of adolescent detachment be dispelled. Many parents feel they have little or no influence in their adolescent’s life and they bemoan the fact that their child’s fate rests outside their hands. Parents require solid information on the profound neurocognitive, social and emotional changes that occur during adolescence and the importance of their continued sensitivity and attunement to their child’s needs during this time. They need to know what to expect in their relationship with their child, and how best to manage the transition of adolescence. Many parents experience the increase in parent-child conflict that occurs during adolescence as a personal rejection of the relationship and their importance to their child. This perception is mistaken, although entirely understandable in light of the conflict and communication difficulties that often occur between parents and their teenage children. Helping parents to reframe the meaning of conflict as an opportunity to build their relationship with their adolescent child can be of great assistance to parents. Many parents of adolescents require in-
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  • Fall '15
  • Dr. Valeria Rus
  • Dr Marlene M Moretti

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