Moms Matter: UCLA Study Finds College-Age Children Place Their Parents Ahead of Their Friends

A new study by psychologists at the University of California, Los Angeles finds that college-age children tend to place more importance on the well-being of their mothers and fathers than on their friends.

Participants in the study were first given a questionnaire that gauged their feelings toward their parents and their best friend. On average the participants felt their relationships with their friends were stronger.

The college-age participants were then presented with 16 cards face down on a computer screen. Most of the cards when turned over awarded money but some indicated that participants lost money. If they turned over a card that lost money the game was over. In half the rounds, all of the player’s gains went to the parent and all of the losses went to the friend. In the other rounds, all gains went to the friend and all losses to the parent.

When participants knew they were playing the card game to benefit their parents, the participants were more than 25 percent more likely to turn over additional cards. In other words, they were substantially more likely to make choices to benefit their parents.

Jennifer Silvers, an assistant professor of psychology at UCLA and the senior author of the study, stated that “our study suggests mom still matters. When push came to shove, they prioritized their parents. Parents continue to have an enduring impact on their children as they become adults — and on their decision-making.”

Dr. Silvers joined the UCLA faculty in 2016. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia and holds a Ph.D. in psychology from Columbia University in New York City.

The full study, “Parents Versus Peers: Assessing the Impact of Social Agents on Decision Making in Young Adults,” was published on the website of the journal Psychological Science. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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