Mother knows best: Psychological control, child disclosure, and maternal knowledge in emerging adulthood


emerging adulthood, parental knowledge, child disclosure


Although perceived parental knowledge of children’s behaviors, whereabouts, and companions in emerging adulthood has been linked with less engagement in risk behaviors [Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 37 (2008) 847–859], much remains unknown about how parents gain this knowledge during this time period. Because parents tend to have less direct control over their children’s comings and goings in emerging adulthood, child disclosure may play a particularly important role in the knowledge parents have of their children’s lives. The purpose of this study was to examine: (1) whether aspects of the mother–child relationship were related to child disclosure, (2) whether child disclosure was related to maternal knowledge, and (3) whether child disclosure and maternal knowledge were related to a child’s involvement in risk behaviors during emerging adulthood. Data collected from 252 emerging adults attending college in the United States (77 males, 175 females), and their mothers, were analyzed using structural equation modeling. Results suggested that: (a) satisfaction with the current relationship between emerging adults and their mothers was positively related to child disclosure, (b) maternal psychological control was negatively related to child disclosure, (c) child disclosure was positively related to maternal knowledge, and (d) child disclosure was indirectly and maternal knowledge was directly related to lower levels of risk behaviors.

Original Publication Citation

*Urry, S., Nelson, L. J., & Padilla-Walker, L. M. (2011). 'Mother knows best: Psychological control, child disclosure, and maternal knowledge in emerging adulthood. Journal of Family Studies, 17, 157-173.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Journal of Family Studies




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor