By Bunmi Sofola
Moody teenagers can be quick to blame it all on their parents when things go wrong in their lives. But when it comes to relationship problems, the eternal cry of ‘it’s all your fault’ might not be so wide off the mark.
One in five parents admit they have secretly tried to rid their children of a girlfriend or boyfriend of whom they disapprove. Common tricks identified in a study include stirring arguments between them, banning them from seeing each other, not passing on telephone messages and confiscating or hiding mobile phones.
Some parents admit they have listened in to private telephone conversations, while others have gone so far as to follow their offspring to see who they are meeting and confront their lovers.
Mothers emerged as the biggest culprits, with one in three admitting they have won a battle to split their child from someone they considered ‘not good enough’.
Only one in four fathers said the same thing.
The study of 2,000 parents found one in three has disapproved of someone their child is dating. Around one in ten admitted disliking them so much that they ‘did anything they could’ to try and break up the young lovers.
But one in five owned up to less extreme forms of sabotage to discourage the relationship, including not passing on messages, grounding their children and simply trying to talk them out of it.
The study found three quarters of parents have kept a close eye on their children’s fledging relationships, with almost half admitting the idea of their offspring being in one really bothers them. More than one in four believed their child’s partner was no good enough for them, while 24 per cent thought the person their offspring had fallen for was ‘too old’.
Other reasons for parents taking a dislike to a new partner including them having a reputation as a troublemaker (23 per cent), not liking their family (22per cent) or even the fact that they came from a ‘rough part of town’ (16 per cent).
Parents were also put off by partners who did not work hard enough at school, those who smoked or drank or those who simply did not enjoy the right kind of hobbies.
Almost one in ten parents admitted their dislike of their child’s love has put a strain on their relationship with them and led to rows.
The research was commissioned by the publisher Penguin to mark the release of the second book in a romantic series for teenage readers, Girl Heart Boy: Rumour Has It.
The book’s author Ali Cronin said: ‘As a parent, I think falling in love for the first time and the inevitable heartbreak when it ends—is all part of growing up.
The best option is usually to let your child get on with it, but be there for support when things don’t end up as they had hoped.’
The study also found parents’ spying went beyond relationships, with 30 per cent admitting to snooping on all areas of their teenagers’ lives for example through Facebook.