Media release: The key to improving teenage life satisfaction

Teenagers are better equipped to weather the challenging transition between childhood and adulthood if they have parents who adopt a strength-based approach to parenting.

A new study by Professor Lea Waters from the University of Melbourne, found that teens are more likely to report higher levels of life satisfaction if their parents have a strength-based parenting style.

Professor Waters said that when a parent sees and cultivates their teenager’s strengths, such as humour, writing or sporting ability, this helps build their teen’s confidence.

“These strengths form inner resources that help buffer young people against the stresses of teenage life,” she said.

“Teenagers with high levels of life satisfaction have stronger emotional, academic and social skills, and are better equipped to cope with stressful life events.”

According to the World Health Organization, depression is the number one cause of illness and suicide is the third leading cause of death in teens.

While life satisfaction acts as a buffer against the development of psychological disorders and enables wellbeing,  it declines during adolescence explained Professor Waters.

“Adolescence is a time of real psychological vulnerability, and it is accompanied by wide ranging physical, neurological, hormonal, and social changes,” Professor Waters said.

“It’s critical that we know how parents can best use the potent influence that they have on their teenagers wellbeing."

Strength-based parenting is a promising but under-explored area of positive psychology, compared to authoritative parenting which has been much more widely researched.

Professor Waters explained that authoritative parenting is characterized by parents who are warm, sensitive, and emotionally supportive, but also set clear boundaries for behaviour

“Strength-based parenting goes further by deliberately identifying and cultivating positive states, processes and qualities in one’s children,” Professor Waters said.

“We found that the effects of strength-based parenting went well beyond authoritative parenting, with an almost twenty per cent higher level of life satisfaction.”