Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs 519 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

August 01, 2006

Study Looking at Time Teens, Parents Spend Together, Apart

A University of Guelph PhD student and registered couple and family therapist is interviewing older adolescents and their parents to find out how the time they spend together and apart influences their relationships.

To date, studies on family time have generally been focused on the experience of families with younger children, said Lynda Ashbourne of the Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition.

Her research project looks specifically at the experience of family time when adolescents are 17 or 18 and still living with both parents. Families at this stage are able to reflect on the changes that have taken place over the teen years, as well as anticipate upcoming changes related to work or education plans, she said.

"It's interesting to talk to family members together in order to hear about how they experience changes in the kind of time they have available and the types of things they do together and apart that are different now that children are older," Ashbourne said.

"Sometimes parents and teenagers are able to appreciate certain aspects of togetherness that weren’t present in the past. Also, with teenagers becoming more involved in their own interests outside of the family, the time that is spent apart may add a new dimension to what is shared by family members."

Families at this stage of life are also managing time in the face of competing work and leisure schedules that can create a feeling of time scarcity or limitations. They often adapt relationships to allow for more separateness and independence while maintaining connection, which is frequently a complex process, she said.

The process of both stepping back and staying connected can be challenging, Ashbourne said. "But is can also create an opportunity for positive growth and development for adolescents and for parents. As a family therapist, I know that many families find the best solutions when they work together and pay attention to each member’s experience."

This research project, which takes into consideration the everyday experience of families from multiple perspectives, will contribute to the understanding both family development and how best to help families who are feeling challenged.

Ashbourne is focussing on families in the Guelph, Kitchener/Waterloo and London areas. To participate in the study, call (519) 824-4120 ext. 58051 or e-mail

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rebecca Kendall 519 824-4120, Ext. 56039.

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