It’s a familiar, annual sight during the college orientations I run: at the snack break, a handful of sad looking students peel off from the crowd, wearing carefully curated first-day outfits and clutching their phones. They cluster along the edges of the room, or just outside, murmuring quietly to their parents. If their hair is long enough, it will hang over their faces to cover tears.

I imagine the nervous parents pacing on the other end of the line, stomach in knots as they listen to anguished kids. For many of them, it is the first time they will nurture their children at a distance. Many are surely thrilled that their struggling teen calls at all. After all, isn’t a kid who bends your ear what we call a parenting win?

It depends, researchers say. Psychologists have identified a style of communication between parents and adolescent children that can have…

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