Parents might prefer that their teenagers just accept what they say without argument. But a new study reveals — perhaps unsurprisingly — that teens who push back against their moms' words tend to be better at resisting peer pressure as well.
According to LiveScience, researchers talked to 184 seventh- and eighth-graders about their friendships and their drug and alcohol use. They also brought their moms into the lab, and watched teens discuss a contentious issue with their mothers. Teens who talked back to their moms reported being better able to talk back to their friends too — they were more resistant to peer pressure to use alcohol and drugs. In particular, one type of backtalk seemed most beneficial: "productive arguing - in which the teen tries to persuade his or her mother with reasoned arguments rather than pressure, whining or insults." Says study author Joseph Allen, "The healthy autonomy they'd established at home seemed to carry over into their relationships with peers."
It's no shock that kids who learn to assert themselves at home are better able to do so with their friends. Arguing with parents, however annoying for the parents involved, might give kids a crucial model for how to stand their ground, something they can use in potentially higher-stakes situations involving peers. The study does have limitations — kids' self-reports of their drug use and friendships might not be accurate, and they might not fight with their moms the same way in the lab that they do at home. Still, it offers a pretty good argument for letting teens plead their case, rather than shutting them down. Parents have been campaigning against backtalk since time immemorial, but they might change their tune if they knew it could keep kids off drugs.