The Role of “Very Important” Nonparental Adults in Adolescent Development
Keywordsperceived characteristics of & relationship with very important nonparental adult
misconduct & depressed mood
male vs female adolescents
Human Sex Differences
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AbstractTwo hundred one adolescents of diverse ethnic backgrounds (mean age = 16.7 years) reported whether they considered any adult other than their parents to be a "very important" person (VIP) in their lives, and described various attributes of the VIP and their relationship with this individual. Perceived VIP characteristics - especially perceived involvement of the VIP in behavior that is uniformly illegal (e.g., theft) or illegal for adolescents (e.g., alcohol use) -were robust predictors of boys' self-reported misconduct and had modest links with their level of self-reported depressive symptomatology. In contrast, VIP attributes showed their strongest linkages to girls' depressive symptoms, with perceived VIP warmth and acceptance related to a lower incidence of depressed mood. Regression analyses indicated that these VIP attributes contributed uniquely to the explanation of misconduct and depressive symptoms even when analogous parental and friend attributes were included in the models. In view of the findings of this exploratory study, several future research directions are suggested, including research on the mechanisms through which VIP "effects" may be transmitted.