Do Attitudinal and Behavioral Ratings of Family Members Vary across Familial Configurations?

Article excerpt

Many studies have compared family members' ratings and/or evaluations across familial configurations (e.g., Parish, 1987a, 1988; Parish & Dostal, 1980; Parish & Taylor, 1979; Raschke & Raschke, 1979; Rosendahl & Wells, 1983). In general, fathers from divorced families have not fared well in comparison with fathers from intact families. In contrast, evaluations of mothers and self-ratings (i.e., self-concepts) by children of divorce have not been so clearly diminished according to available research.

Notably, familial configurations are currently becoming more diverse. Therefore, studies conducted in this area must also diversify in order to better reflect the different family structures (i.e., intact, reconstituted, single-parent-divorced, single-parent-never married, and legal guardian families) and accompanying familial dynamics.

As in many earlier studies (e.g., Parish, 1987a; Parish & Kappes, 1980), the Personal Attribute Inventory (PAI; Parish, Bryant, & Shirazi, 1976) was used in the present study to assess students' attitudes toward themselves and their parents. In addition, the Revised Love/Hate Checklist (RLHC; Parish & Necessary, 1993) was also used in order to determine how parents are perceived to act toward one another across various familial configurations. As William Glasser (1980) has noted, "we are as we act," and how parents act may ultimately have a lasting impact on how their children act in turn.

METHOD

A total of 212 students enrolled in a midwestern high school voluntarily completed PAIs in order to describe themselves, their fathers, and their mothers. These inventories consist of 100 alphabetically arranged adjectives (50 positive and 50 negative), from which the respondents select 30 that were most descriptive of them. The score is based on the number of "positive" adjectives checked.

Students in the present study also completed the RLHCs twice--once to describe how their fathers acted toward their mothers, and once to describe how their mothers acted toward their fathers. These checklists consist of 40 alphabetically arranged adverbs (20 loving and 20 hateful), from which the respondents choose 10 that best describe how each parent acts toward the other parent. The score is based on the number of "loving" adverbs checked.

All forms were presented to the respondents in a counterbalanced fashion.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

One-way analyses of variance were used to examine the possible differences in the various dependent variables associated with different familial configurations.

Regarding PAI scores, students' evaluations of their fathers were found to vary significantly as a function of their familial configuration, F(4, 182) = 5.07, p [is less than] .001). The Multiple Range post hoc test indicated that only the students from the divorced families ([Mathematical Expression Omitted]) had significantly lower evaluations of their fathers than did their counterparts from intact families ([Mathematical Expression Omitted]). Ratings of fathers by those from other family backgrounds fell between these two points of comparison.

Students' evaluations of themselves, F(4, 207) = 0.97, p [is greater than] .05) and their mothers, F(4, 196) = 0.94, p [is greater than] .05) both failed to vary significantly across familial configurations.

Regarding RLHC scores, fathers' actions toward mothers varied significantly as a function of family background, F(4, 166) = 19.95, p [is less than] .0001). The Multiple Range post hoc test revealed that fathers from intact families [Mathematical Expression Omitted] were perceived to act significantly more lovingly toward their spouses than did their counterparts from reconstituted families [Mathematical Expression Omitted], divorced families [Mathematical Expression Omitted], and single-parent (never married) families [Mathematical Expression Omitted]. Males serving as legal guardians [Mathematical Expression Omitted] were not found to vary significantly from all the aforementioned groups in terms of how lovingly they interacted toward their spouses. …