Regulation of young people’s behaviour by a parent or primary caregiver

Export Indicator

The percentage of young people who report a low, medium or high level of regulation of their behaviours by their parent or primary caregiver
What it measures

This indicator is a measure of the percentage of adolescents aged 10–19 who report a high level of one aspect of regulation by their parents or primary caregivers. “Regulation” is composed of expectations (e.g. in relation to behaviour and school work), the monitoring of adolescent behaviour and enforcement of the limits of behaviour. This indicator is limited to the monitoring aspect, specifically to young people’s own perception of how much their parents or primary caregivers know about their behaviours. An indicator that measures all three aspects of regulation is presently being tested and will replace the current indicator when it becomes available. The indicator in this guide, although limited, nevertheless clearly relates to one aspect of regulation. It has been validated in 12 different cultural settings and performs as precisely as other indicators that ask more directly about the monitoring of behaviour and the enforcement of limits of behaviour.


The number of young people aged 10-19 in each of the three regulation categories (low, medium and high).


The number of young people aged 10-19.

Method of measurement

This indicator is measured by calculating proportions or a mean score from five items in a survey that includes young people. The items for measuring regulation have been tested and validated in 12 different cultural settings. The five statements comprising the regulation indicator concern parental knowledge of the behaviour of young adolescents.
Respondents are asked to choose from a list of adults, e.g. mother, father, grandparent, aunt/uncle or guardian, the one with whom they spend most time. They are asked to choose an answer for each statement from a three-point Likert-type scale, indicating whether the primary caregiver knows (i) nothing, (ii) something, or (iii) a lot about each of the stated things, with scores of 1, 2 and 3 respectively. The statements are as follows.
1. Where you go at night.
2. Where you are most afternoons after school.
3. How you spend your money.
4. What you do with your free time.
5. Who your friends are.
Note that item 2 should be modified appropriately, or excluded, if the respondent is not in school. The results are calculated as the proportion of young people who report that their parents or caregivers engage in low, medium or high regulation. In addition the outcome can be correlated with the health behaviour or health outcome of interest, e.g. sexual initiation or condom use. This yields a measure of the importance of positive regulation by parents or caregivers and its effect on young people’s behaviour and health outcomes.
This indicator should be presented as separate percentages for males and females, disaggregated by age in the following groups: 10–14, 15–19 and 10–19 (six categories). If suitable data are not available this indicator should not be reported.
NOTE: this indicator is most relevant for the youngest age group (ages 10-14), as parental relationships tend to be more influential in early adolescence. In many countries, age 18 is considered as legal adulthood, in which case the indicator might be more significant for young people aged 17 or younger.

Measurement frequency

Age group: 10 years - 14 years, 10 years - 19 years, 15 years - 19 years

Education: N/A

Gender: Male, Female

Geographic location: N/A

Pregnancy status: N/A

Sector: N/A

Target: N/A

Time period: N/A

Type of orphan: N/A

Vulnerability status: N/A

Explanation of the numerator
Explanation of the denominator
Strengths and weaknesses

This indicator, while limited to being a measure of parental knowledge of adolescent behaviours, provides a proxy for parental regulation. Adolescents who live in a social environment that provides meaningful relationships, encourages self-expression and provides structure and boundaries are less likely to initiate sex at an early age, to experience depression and to use psychoactive substances than other adolescents. Regulation is a measure of the positive structure and boundaries that are necessary for healthy development, i.e. expectations, monitoring and limitsetting. As noted in section 5, HIV is ultimately driven by individual sexual behaviour, and the context in which young people grow up and make decisions, including sexual decisions, contributes greatly to the types of decision taken (e.g. whether to engage in risk behaviour). Regulation describes one aspect of this context, in this case the family context, and its contribution to adolescent health and development. It is often difficult to address contextual factors through programmes. However, regulation by parents is one contextual factor that has been addressed programmatically, most often through campaigns of information and communication targeted at parents and through school-based efforts to involve parents more actively in their children’s decision-making and activities. In settings where the level of regulation is low it may be desirable to have programmes for parents or primary caregivers or to provide alternative mentors, i.e. experienced and trusted advisers. In such a programme, evaluators may use the indicator as an intermediate outcome indicator to measure improvements in the social environment of young people in the programme’s intended population.
NOTE: this indicator should be interpreted together with the measure for connection (see previous indicator). The connection indicator measures the closeness of the relationship between young people and their parents or caregivers. Evidence has recently been published that both positive connection combined with regulation by parents and caregivers contribute most effectively to young people’s positive health and development outcomes.

Further information