parenting, emerging adulthood, parental responsiveness/control


The changing nature of the transition to adulthood in western societies, such as the United States, may be extending the length of time parents are engaged in “parenting” activities. However, little is known about different approaches parents take in their interactions with their emerging-adult children. Hence, this study attempted to identify different clusters of parents based on the extent to which they exhibited both extremes of control (psychological control, punishment, verbal hostility, indulgence) and responsiveness (knowledge, warmth, induction, autonomy granting), and to examine how combinations of parenting were related to emerging adult children’s relational and individual outcomes (e.g. parent–child relationship quality, drinking, self-worth, depression). The data were collected from 403 emerging adults (M age = 19.89, SD = 1.78, range = 18–26, 62% female) and at least one of their parents (287 fathers and 317 mothers). Eighty-four percent of participants reported being European American, 6% Asian American, 4% African American, 3% Latino, and 4% reported being of other ethnicities. Data were analyzed using hierarchical cluster analysis, separately for mothers and fathers, and identified three similar clusters of parents which we labeled as uninvolved (low on all aspects of parenting), controlling-indulgent (high on both extremes of control and low on all aspects of responsiveness), and authoritative (high on responsiveness and low on control). A fourth cluster was identified for both mothers and fathers and was labeled as inconsistent for mothers (mothers were above the mean on both extremes of control and on responsiveness) and average for fathers (fathers were at the mean on all eight aspects of parenting). The discussion focuses on how each of these clusters effectively distinguished between child outcomes.

Original Publication Citation

Nelson, L. J., Padilla-Walker, L. M., Christensen, K. J.,* Evans, C. A. & Carroll, J. S. (2011). Parenting in Emerging Adulthood: An Examination of Parenting Clusters and Correlates for Mothers and Fathers. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 40, 730-743.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Journal of Youth and Adolescence




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor