Many factors could be co-related with psychological distress in secondary school adolescents. Few of such factors are the style parents adopt in raising their adolescents, and the family characteristics in which adolescents are nurtured. This study was designed to look at the relationship between parenting style/family characteristics and adolescents’ psychological distress. Specifically, the study was designed to investigate the styles that parents adopt in raising their children, the family characteristics of adolescents, such as the family type, the family size and parental figure, and how these variables can contribute to psychological distress among secondary school adolescents. To guide the study, six hypotheses were formulated. The descriptive survey was adopted for the study, in which five schools were randomly selected for the study; selection of schools was restricted to only mixed gender schools in order to make comparisons easier. 40 students were selected from each of the schools making a total of two hundred (200) respondents. The respondents completely filled a questionnaire comprising a socio-demographic and family-related data sheet, a 12-item General Health Questionnaire, and a 30-item Parental Care Scale. The results showed that authoritative (p < 0.01, r = 0.633) and authoritarian parenting styles (p< 0.01, r =0.303) significantly and respectively correlated inversely and directly with psychological distress in adolescents. Permissive parenting styles and family characteristics did not correlate with psychological distress. These findings suggest that higher levels of control, which is characteristic of both authoritative and authoritarian parenting styles, may be a critical factor in the development of psychological distress. It is suggested that counsellors may help parents gain the knowledge and skills necessary to support their adolescents to fulfil their psychological needs. Counselling programmes can be designed for parents in line with the findings, parents’ discussion group and other means can be created with the aim of educating and enlightening parents on how the practices/styles that they adopt could have implications on the psychological wellbeing of their children.
Key words: Parenting style, psychological distress, family characteristics, adolescents, secondary school correlate.
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