Purpose: Considerable evidence documents the linkages between higher levels of parental knowledge about youth activities and positive youth outcomes. This study investigated how day-to-day inconsistency in parental knowledge of youth activities was linked to youth behavioral, psychological, and physical health and parents' stress.
Methods: Participants were employees in the Information Technology Division of a Fortune 500 company and their children (N = 129, mean age of youth = 13.39 years, 55% female). Data were collected from parents and youth via separate workplace and in-home surveys as well as telephone diary surveys on eight consecutive evenings. We assessed day-to-day inconsistency in parental knowledge across these eight calls.
Results: Parents differed in their knowledge from day to day almost as much as their average knowledge scores differed from those of other parents. Controlling for mean levels of knowledge, youth whose parents exhibited more knowledge inconsistency reported more physical health symptoms (e.g., colds and flu). Knowledge inconsistency was also associated with more risky behavior for girls but greater psychological well-being for older adolescents. Parents who reported more stressors also had higher knowledge inconsistency.
Conclusions: Assessing only average levels of parental knowledge does not fully capture how this parenting dimension is associated with youth health. Consistent knowledge may promote youth physical health and less risky behavior for girls. Yet knowledge inconsistency also may reflect normative increases in autonomy as it was positively associated with psychological well-being for older adolescents. Given the linkages between parental stress and knowledge inconsistency, parent interventions should include stress management components.