Press Releases

2001 Releases

Raising Teens: Harvard Study Defines Clear Roles for Parents in Preventing Violence, Drug Abuse and Mental Illness

For immediate release: March 12, 2001

Boston, MA - Adolescence creates turmoil, not only because of changes in teens but also because parents and communities don't always know how to help. And widely reported professional advice is often contradictory. A new study by the Center for Health Communication at the Harvard School of Public Health cuts through the confusion by finding key messages about raising teenagers on which experts do agree. 

Written for the media, policy makers, and practitioners, Raising Teens: A Synthesis of Research and a Foundation for Action reviews over 300 recent studies and identifies core actions for parents and caregivers about which there is widespread agreement among researchers and practitioners. The report is available at:

Rae Simpson, Ph.D., author of the report and chief consultant to the Center's Parenting Project, examined U.S. studies covering a broad diversity of teen and parent populations. The results focus on practical guidelines and strategies that can contribute to healthy adolescent development and prevent problems such as violence and mental illness. 

For example, one of the report’s Five Basics of Parenting Adolescents, "Monitor and Observe," describes research showing a link between parents’ keeping an eye on teens’ whereabouts and the prevention of problems such as drug abuse and delinquency. Another guideline, "Guide and Limit," concludes that research supports a strategy of maintaining family rules but avoiding rigid restrictions, or "Loosen up, but don’t let go." 

The report also features a capsule summary of the major milestones of adolescence that parents need to watch for and support. These "Ten Tasks of Adolescence" include developing new decision-making skills, forming friendships based on mutual trust and understanding, and identifying meaningful moral standards. 

"The Project looked for common ground among researchers, and we found a surprising amount," Simpson said. "America's teenagers are facing risks from violence, mental illness, abuse, neglect, inadequate education, substance abuse, and poverty. Research strongly affirms family influence, so we know we can help teens by helping parents."

The goal of the 96-page report, which was funded by a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, is to make research insights about the parenting of adolescents widely available to the media and others who work with and for parents.

Simpson is author of the 1997 study, The Role of the Mass Media in Parenting Education, from the Center for Health Communication at HSPH. She is also head of Parenting Programs at MIT.

For copies of the new report or for further information, visit the Project’s web site at, or contact Rae Simpson at the Harvard Center for Health Communication, 617/432-1038, email

For further information, please contact:

Terri Mendoza 
Center for Health Communication
Harvard School of Public Health 
677 Huntington Avenue 
Boston, MA 02115 
Phone: 617-432-1038