Evidence That It Works
A study of 82 Australian adolescents found that a teen’s trust in their parents/caregivers was positively correlated with the quality of their communication.
In another study of 668 pairs of mothers and middle school students from the South Bronx (75% Latino, 25% Black), teens who communicated more frequently with their mother reported that their mother had higher levels of expertise (around a risky behavior), was trustworthy, and was available to them. This frequency of communication, in turn, predicted lower levels of risky behavior.
Why Does It Matter?
Trust is foundational to our well-being, helping us to build both healthy relationships and a healthy society. In general, interpersonal trust is thought to have three components: cognitive, affective (emotional), and behavioral. In other words, we expect that a person will be trustworthy, we feel an emotional connection to them, and we witness them following through on their promises.
Research suggests that our ability to trust others is formed in our early relationships with parents/caregivers who provide a “safe haven” and “secure base” for children to explore the world. As children move into adolescence, their attachment needs begin to shift more towards peers; however, this does not negate their need for a continued strong relationship with parents/caregivers, part of which is formed through positive communication.
Indeed, studies have found that teens who have good communication with their parents/caregivers have higher levels of self-worth, life satisfaction, emotional well-being, and prosocial behavior. They’re also more willing to talk about challenges with their parents/caregivers, and they’re less likely to engage in risky behaviors.
And, for teens who may struggle to get their homework (and other not-so-fun tasks) done, both trust and good communication with parents/caregivers is associated with lower levels of procrastination.