When I started thinking about how I use parents in my writing, I realized that it depends on the genre. When I'm working on a fantasy project, the parents tend to be pretty absent. But if I'm writing realistic fiction, the parents are much more present, and are often a strong source of conflict.
Why this huge difference? Here are some ideas:
In fantasy, the focus is usually on the world, the magic, etc. and less on the family dynamic. There is also a common theme in fantasy of having to find parents who are lost; in fact, that's something that I'll be exploring in the sequels to My Very UnFairy Tale Life. But while my main character is searching for her parents, she's going to go through a lot of adventures on her own.
Meanwhile, in stories that are rooted more in the real world, it makes sense that parents would be a bigger factor because the main character's struggles are more focused on home, school, etc.
Do I have a preference for stories with parents vs. without parents? I think I actually prefer fictional parents who are somewhat in between. They are involved enough to be a source of support (and conflict) for the main character, but are also cheerfully oblivious enough to allow the character to have his/her own story.
Does anyone else see this parental difference depending on genre? How involved do you like parents to be in stories?