The Relationship of Psychological Adjustment to Perceived Family Functioning among African-American Adolescents

Article excerpt


The family of origin is defined as "the family in which a person has his or her beginnings--psychologically, psychically, and emotionally (Hovestadt, Anderson, Piercy, Cochran, & Fine, 1985). The role of family of origin in the inception, incubation, and transmission of psychological maladjustment has been recognized since the early writings of Freud (Anthony, 1971). The intergenerational family interventions of Bowen (1978), Framo (1976), and Boszormenyi-Nagy and Spark (1973) are founded on the tenet that family factors influence individual psychological health. Although several intergenerational models of family intervention are currently employed, their theoretical underpinnings lack empirical validation (Hovestadt, et al., 1985).

A recently developed instrument, the Family-of-Origin Scale (FOS; Hovestadt et al., 1985), was developed from psychodynamic models of family functioning and provides a measure of global family functioning. The FOS is described as reflecting Bowen's (1978) and Framo's (1976) view of psychological health as stemming from family environments that are nurturant and supportive while simultaneously promoting individual autonomy. This balance of autonomy and intimacy appears to be particularly critical for healthy adolescent functioning (Erickson, 1968).

The Family-of-Origin Scale is a 40-item, face-valid instrument designed to measure family health on two primary dimensions: Autonomy and Intimacy. The Autonomy dimension is comprised of the following five subscales: Clarity of Expression, Responsibility, Respect for Others, Openness to Others, and Acceptance of Separation and Loss. The Intimacy dimension consists of the following subscales: Range of Feelings, Mood and Tone, Conflict Resolution, Empathy, and Trust (Hovestadt et al., 1985).

The original FOS was developed to assess adults' retrospective perceptions of their family of origin. Items for the FOS were selected by a panel of six experts in the field of family therapy. A pool of items was generated from which 40 items were determined to most accurately reflect either the Autonomy or Intimacy construct. Half of the 40 items comprise the Autonomy construct; the other half make up the Intimacy construct (Hovestadt et al., 1985).

The FOS was recently modified from its retrospective form in order to assess adolescents' perceptions of their families (Manley, Searight, Binder, & Russo, 1990a). This adaptation involved changing all items from the past to the present tense. This altered version of the FOS was first used to gather data from a sample of 161 nonclinical adolescents. However, since that time, nonclinical data has been gathered from 664 male and female white adolescents enrolled in midwestern high schools (Manley et al., 1990c). To date, data has been gathered only with white subjects.

The modified adolescent version of the FOS (FOS: A) appears promising as both a research and clinical instrument. The FOS: A has shown both internal consistency reliability (.96) and temporal reliability (.95, p |is less than~ .001) (Manley, Searight, Skitka, Russo, & Schudy, 1990b).

Validity studies involving the FOS: A are limited. However, factor analytic (Manley, Searight, Skitka, Russo, & Binder, 1990c) and discriminant validity studies (Searight, Binder, Manley, Krohn, Rogers, & Russo, 1991) have offered support for the validity of the FOS: A. Specifically, in a factor analytic study, Manley et al. (1990c) administered the FOS: A to a sample of 407 adolescents and concluded that the FOS: A, unlike the adult FOS, was a "multidimensional instrument" that was clinically useful. It appears that the FOS: A has a factor structure that is distinct from the adult FOS, and that the FOS may be better suited for use with adolescents. Further, Searight et al. (1990) administered the FOS: A to 40 adolescent substance abusers and 40 nonclinical adolescents and determined that five subscales and the global FOS: A score differentiated substance abusers from nonclinical adolescents. …


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