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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — In the age-old conflict between parents and their “difficult” teenagers, the kids may have received a bum rap.

The finding comes in a study conducted by psychologists at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

One of the researchers, Dr. Deborah Welsh, said the study showed parent temperament — not the child’s — is more significant in determining the nature of the parent/teen relationship.

“We rarely talk in terms of a ‘difficult’ parent, although their existence would be widely acknowledged,” said Welsh.

She conducted the study with Myra C. Kawaguchi, a graduate student in psychology. The study was based on surveys and other measures, including in-home visits, with 82 adolescents and their parents.

Other study results:

— Mothers with more difficult temperaments had sons who reported less support from them and daughters who reported greater conflict.

— Fathers’ temperaments were less important to the parent/teen relationships than the mothers’ temperaments.

Welsh said the study group, derived from nine rural communities in western Massachusetts, was small and relatively homogeneous.

“The findings may not generalize to adolescents and parents in other situations,” Welsh said. “The study is just a first step.”

The study was published in the January issue of “Merrill-Palmer Quarterly,” a publication of Wayne State University Press.

Contact: Dr. Deborah Welsh (423-974-3328)