Turkish Adolescents' Conflict Resolution Strategies toward Peers and Parents as a Function of Loneliness

Article excerpt

Although conflict is inevitable at all stages of life, conflict in relationships is believed to increase until mid-adolescence and subside during late adolescence (Laursen & Collins, 1994; Paikoff & Brooks-Gunn, 1991). It is well documented that adolescence is a developmental period central to learning lifetime skills for initiating and maintaining relationships. Therefore, the acquisition of destructive conflict resolution skills may have detrimental consequences for future relationships (Jensen-Campbell, Graziano, & Hair, 1996). Deutsch (1994) stated that the lack of conflict resolution skills leads to negative and harmful conflicts in relationships.

Simultaneously, adolescence marks the developmental stage where they begin to turn away from the family as the major social relations provider and toward their peers (Brown, 1990; Rice, 1999; Zeijl, te Poel, du Bois-Reymond, Ravesloot, & Meulman, 2000). This attention shift may result in loneliness (Brage, Meredith, & Woodward, 1993; de Jong-Gierveld, 1987; Medora & Woodward, 1986; Peplau & Perlman, 1982).

The purpose of this study was to expand our knowledge of conflict in adolescence. Specifically it examined the conflict resolution strategies of Turkish adolescents toward their parents and peers as a function of their level of loneliness.

Adolescent Conflict with Parents

During adolescence, there are simultaneous changes in the parentadolescent relationship with an increase in conflict, especially in adolescence (Galambos & Almeida, 1992). Cognitive-developmental models suggest that the shifts in perspective by adolescents results in behavior changes toward parents and, consequently, an increase in family conflict (Laursen & Collins, 1994). Interestingly, Hortacsu (1997) compared Turkish and American adolescents, finding that Turkish adolescents perceive their parents as more important in satisfying needs than do American adolescents. In fact, there was no difference in the perceived importance of parents and peers in satisfying needs for the American sample.

Parents as well as adolescents contribute to parent-adolescent conflict. Balswick and Macrides (1975) found a relationship between conflict and severe or inconsistent discipline, a patriarchal authority structure, the perception that the parents' marriage is unhappy, and an inequality in parental authority (i.e., one parent exercises more authority than the other). Lindahl and Malik (1999) found a relationship between destructive forms of marital conflict and fathers' negative parental behaviors.

In a four-year longitudinal study of a theory suggesting that level of parent-adolescent conflict is largely determined by the family context, Rueter and Conger (1995) found that families in which members were critical, coercive, and angry toward one another became increasingly hostile in the second year. During the third year, those hostile families grew more and more defensive and disruptive. By middle adolescence, parent-adolescent disagreements among the disruptive, inflexible problem solvers were likely to be exacerbated or, at least, they declined at a significantly slower rate, relative to less critical/coercive/angry families in the sample.

In a two-year longitudinal study, Shek and Ma (2001) investigated the relationship between parent-adolescent conflict and Chinese adolescents' antisocial and prosocial behaviors. They found that parentadolescent conflict predicted antisocial behavior but not prosocial behavior. Furthermore, they found that father-adolescent conflict was also related to adolescents' antisocial and prosocial behaviors across time.

Within the family there are well-documented differences between relationships, and as a consequence, conflict with mothers and fathers. Mothers were found to have more intimate relationships with their adolescents (LeCroy, 1988; Youniss & Smollar, 1985). Specifically, they were more open and receptive in communication and spent more time alone with their children (Noller & Callan, 1990). …