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Judith Smetana - University of Rochester. Rochester, NY, US

Judith Smetana

Professor of Psychology | University of Rochester


Smetana is an expert on adolescent-parent relationships, moral reasoning, and development in cultural contexts.

Areas of Expertise (5)

Adolescent-Parent Relationships

Teens and Self-Esteem

Cultural Contexts

Children's Moral and Social Reasoning

Parenting Beliefs



Judith Smetana Publication



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An Interview with Dr. Judith Smetana Judith Smetana:




Professor Smetana's research examines adolescent-parent relationships and development in cultural contexts; children's moral and social reasoning; and development of parenting beliefs. She is focusing on adolescents' strategies for managing information about their everyday activities and parents' strategies for remaining informed about what their adolescents are doing. Also, the development of young children's moral and social knowledge, including the development of and conceptual distinctions between children's understanding of moral and social- conventional rules and transgressions, relationships among social knowledge, affect, and behavior, and contextual influences on social and moral judgments. And parents' parenting beliefs and their relationships to parenting practices and child outcomes.

Education (1)

University of California, Santa Cruz: Ph.D. 1978

Selected Media Appearances (11)

'Turning Red' Is a Good Conversation Starter -- and Not Just for Girls

New York Times  print


The film provides "a really good representation of adolescent-parent relationships and adolescent development," said Judith Smetana.

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Adolescence expert Judith Smetana wins psychology career award

University of Rochester Newscenter  online


Judith Smetana investigates and writes about the kinds of things that many parents of teenagers wonder about. First, there are the weighty questions: How do I know if my teen is telling the truth? Would he tell me if he had sex with his girlfriend? Did she drink alcohol at the party? And then there’s the more mundane: Did she do poorly on a test? How do I get him to clean up his room?

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Parents Shouldn’t Spy on Their Kids

Nautilus  online


For the past two years, Mandie Snyder, an accountant near Spokane, Washington, has been “monitoring” her daughter. With a handy tech tool known as mSpy, Snyder is able to review her 13-year-old’s text messages, photos, videos, app downloads, and browser history. When parents don’t give children privacy to make their own decisions, kids don’t have a chance to learn from those decisions. While parents have an obligation to guide their children and protect them from harm, adolescence is still a time for testing limits, says Judith Smetana, a professor of psychology who studies adolescent-parent relationships at the University of Rochester.

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Mila Kunis Says She's "Not Friends" With Her Daughter & It's A Perspective Worth Exploring

Romper  online


Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher couldn't wait to have kids before they became parents to their 3-year-old Wyatt Isabelle and their 11-month-old son Dimitri Portwood, as the actress said in a recent interview.... For Landon, as she wrote, it's important that her son never feel as though he owes his mother anything — and most people would agree that a successful, healthy friendship has to be a two-way street. And then there's the fact that parents are supposed to point out when "something’s not acceptable" (i.e. dole out the consequences and guidance parents are known for), as University of Rochester psychology professor Judith Smetana told New York Magazine last year.

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Guilting your kids can work, but do it right

Futurity  online


Feeling guilty can play an important role in children’s development, but children respond negatively when mothers use guilt as a parenting tool indiscriminately, new research suggests.

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Should You Be Best Friends With Your Child?

Madameniore  online


A few days ago, I was getting my two-year-old daughter ready for bed. Her nightly routine consists of putting Vaseline on her lips when they are dry, and for some reason this time, she decided to lick the Vaseline off of her lips. After I promptly told her that she is not supposed to eat it, she smiled and then we both laughed at how silly the moment was. Not only was it was a sincere laugh that I couldn’t contain, but it was also a chuckle reminiscent of the ones I hear in my friendships with my girlfriends. I felt like my daughter and I had a moment. However, can a parent be too friendly with their child? University of Rochester’s psychology professor Judith Smetana believes that open communication is great, but a parent sharing inappropriate topics with their child can overstep boundaries. That includes things like discussing money issues or your sex life with your children.

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Is Snooping on Teenagers Ever O.K.?

The New York Times  online


Adolescence comes with a thorny problem: Teenagers suddenly yearn for privacy just when their lives are expanding to include a range of risky new opportunities. Whether or not they have something worrisome to hide, normally developing tweens often start to shut their bedroom doors and become cagey about their time online. And when teenagers act aloof, their parents often feel tempted, if not duty bound, to secretly search bedrooms and surreptitiously scan online activity to ensure that their child isn’t engaged with drugs, drinking or digital misdeeds.

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Having controlling parents may affect a child's later relationships

Star Media Group  online


Teens whose parents use guilt have trouble working out disagreements well into adulthood, says a new study. “To maintain healthy relationships, it is important to be able to assert one’s own beliefs during a disagreement while also continuing to be warm toward the person,” says lead author Barbara Oudekerk, a psychologist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

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Having strict parents may affect later relationships

Health24  online


"To maintain healthy relationships, it is important to be able to assert one's own beliefs during a disagreement while also continuing to be warm toward the person," said lead author Barbara Oudekerk, a psychologist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

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Having controlling parents may affect later relationships

Reuters  online


Teens whose parents use guilt or withholding have trouble working out disagreements well into adulthood, according to a new study. “To maintain healthy relationships, it is important to be able to assert one’s own beliefs during a disagreement while also continuing to be warm toward the person,” said lead author Barbara Oudekerk, a psychologist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

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Teens More Helpful Than Parents Know

Live Science  online


Teens might not be entirely self-centered and lazy at home. Sure, parents might think as much, but a new study shows that teens not only feel obligated to help their parents, but they do this out of love and concern for their parents, even at the expense of social livelihood.

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Selected Articles (5)

Young Children’s Moral Judgments, Justifications, and Emotion Attributions in Peer Relationship Contexts

Child Development

Smetana, J. G., & Ball, C. L.

2017 Children (n = 160, 4‐ to 9‐year‐olds; Mage = 6.23 years, SD = 1.46) judged, justified, attributed emotions, and rated intent for hypothetical physical harm, psychological harm, and resource distribution transgressions against close friends, acquaintances, disliked peers, or bullies. Transgressions against bullies were judged more acceptable than against friends and disliked peers and less deserving of punishment than against acquaintances and disliked peers. Transgressions against friends were judged least intended and resulting in more negative emotions for transgressors; actors transgressing against disliked peers, as compared to bullies or acquaintances, were happy victimizers. Across relationships, children viewed moral transgressions as wrong independent of rules and authority, based primarily on welfare and fairness justifications. Peer context colors but does not fundamentally change moral evaluations.

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Current research on parenting styles, dimensions, and beliefs

Current Opinions in Psychology

Smetana, J. G.

2017 For decades, parenting has been characterized in terms of broad global styles, with authoritative parenting seen as most beneficial for children’s development. Concerns with greater sensitivity to cultural and contextual variations have led to greater specificity in defining parenting in terms of different parenting dimensions and greater consideration of the role of parenting beliefs in moderating links between parenting and adjustment. New research includes ‘domain-specific’ models that describe parents as flexibly deploying different practices depending on their goals, children’s needs, and the types of behaviors towards which parenting is directed. These trends are described, and directions for future research are discussed.

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Evaluations of Conflicts Between Latino Values and Autonomy Desires Among Puerto Rican Adolescents

Child Development

Villalobos-Solis, M., Smetana, J. G., & Tasopoulos-Chan, M.

2016 Puerto Rican adolescents (N = 105; Mage = 15.97 years, SD = 1.40) evaluated hypothetical situations describing conflicts between Latino values (family obligations and respeto) and autonomy desires regarding personal, friendship, and dating activities. Adolescents judged that peers should prioritize Latino values over autonomy, which led to greater feelings of pride than happiness. However, they believed that teens would prioritize autonomy over Latino values, which led to greater feelings of happiness than pride. Adolescents reasoned about autonomy desires as personal issues, whereas reasoning about Latino values was multifaceted, including references to conventions and concerns for others. Furthermore, judgments and reasoning depended on the type of autonomy desire and Latino value and sometimes, by participants’ age and sex.

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Adolescent development in interpersonal and societal contexts

Annual Review of Psychology

Smetana, J. G., Campione-Barr, N., Metzger, A.

2006 In this chapter we review theoretical and empirical advances in research on adolescent development in interpersonal and societal contexts. First, we identify several trends in current research, including the current emphasis on ecological models and the focus on diversity in and relational models of adolescent development. Next, we discuss recent research on interpersonal relationships, with an eye toward identifying major research themes and findings. Research on adolescents' relationships with parents, siblings, other relatives, peers, and romantic partners, and adolescents' involvement in community and society is reviewed. Future directions in research on adolescent development are discussed.

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Social–cognitive domain theory: Consistencies and variations in children's moral and social judgments

Handbook of Moral Development

Killen, M., Smetana, J. G.

2006 The social world is complex. It is structured by many social expectations and rules, which are enforced in diverse social situations and in the context of different social relationships and societal arrangements. Through the process of development, children must acquire an understanding of these different social expectations and rules, including an awareness of the regularities that are specific to particular social contexts, as well as an understanding of which expectations and rules are more broadly applicable and obligatory across contexts. Moreover, although morality regulates social relationships, not all social rules are moral; some rules may be functional in regulating social interactions but lack the prescriptive and obligatory basis of moral rules. This chapter describes theory and research from the social-cognitive domain perspective on moral and social development (Helwig & Turiel, 2003; Nucci, 2001, 2002; Smetana, 1995b; Turiel, 1998, 2002, chap. 1 this volume) that describes how children come to understand, interpret, accept, and sometimes reject these diverse aspects of their social world.

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