Parenting New Teen Drivers

What role do families play in youth’s development of risky driving practices?

Car crash injuries are the leading cause of death among adolescents and there is growing interest in understanding how families and friends influence teen driving behavior. Of particular interest are restrictions imposed by parents on youth’s exposure to driving and risky driving behaviors (e.g., texting or drinking while driving) as well as legal penalties for unsafe driving. This study aims to generate a conceptual model to represent how interactions between parents and youth are linked to risky driving behaviors. These interactions include setting limits, communicating expectations, supporting autonomy, and monitoring adolescents’ activities and verbal communication. The investigator will recruit 250 racially diverse 14–15-year-olds and their parents from two driver’s education programs in Louisiana, a state that requires all youth to complete a driver’s training program prior to obtaining a permit or intermediate license. There will be three waves of data collection, during which the teen-parent dyads will complete self-report surveys and interaction tasks designed to elicit active dialogue between parents and youth. The tasks will be videotaped and coded to capture the emotional and functional quality of the relationship; requests and support for autonomy; and consistency of guidelines, authority, and consequences. During the learner’s permit phase, audio recorders will be used to assess three driving sessions supervised by parents and odometer readings will also be documented. These sessions will be coded for tone of the exchanges and specific instructions. The online driving diaries will help document how quickly teens increase the time they spend driving. Teens’ records and driving offenses will be obtained from county court.

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