Synchrony in Adolescence

Article excerpt

Optimal development occurs when an individual interacts with a social environment that is responsive and adaptive to his or her changing needs. A good match is necessary between the developing adolescent's need for autonomy and the opportunities to meet this need at home and in school. From a family life cycle perspective, a family with an adolescent will inevitably experience changes in patterns of interaction and communication as a result of the adolescent's demands for greater autonomy and control (Carter & McGoldrick, 1988; Duvall, 1977). Indeed, research by Buchanan, Eccles, & Becker (1992) suggests that adolescents' relationships with their parents undergo a stressful period during early and middle adolescence when issues of control and autonomy are renegotiated. During this same developmental period, in most junior high school classrooms a greater emphasis is placed on teacher control and discipline, and fewer opportunities are given for student decision making, choice, and self-management (Brophy & Evertson, 1976). Is it not surprising, therefore, that adolescents experience many difficulties during these years (Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development, 1989). From a stage-environment fit perspective, Eccles et al. (1993) proposed that when the developmental trajectories of early adolescence and the trajectories of environmental change across the school years are in synchrony, there will be positive motivational consequences in adolescents (i.e., if the social environment is responsive, facilitative, and developmentally appropriate, be it at school or at home with parents, positive growth and relationships will more likely be experienced by the adolescent). Ongoing parent-adolescent synchronous interactions may thus serve to reinforce a secure attachment between the parent and early adolescent as well as create an environment where social competence is enhanced. This article proposes and integrative model of parent-adolescent synchrony encompassing the development of attachment, social competence, and ultimately, adolescent adjustment.


Synchrony has been variously described as the coordination of movement between individuals in social interactions (Bernieri, Reznick, & Rosenthal, 1988), harmonious and simultaneous responsiveness without merger or loss of boundaries (Brown & Avstreih, 1989), a balance between the perception of being in control and the perception of being controlled (Watson, 1978), and temporally linked patterns of reciprocation (Newson, 1977). Synchrony can be thought of as the dynamic force that runs from infancy through adulthood. For example, synchronous interactions have been found to be predictive of secure attachment (Ainsworth, 1973; Isabella & Belsky, 1991), associated with a sense of control and social competence (Rice, 1990), and linked to measures of adjustment many years later (McGee & Williams, 1991).

Most of the research on infant-caretaker synchrony has focused on the temporally linked patterns of reciprocation or give-and-take interactions specified by Newson (1977). Brazelton, Yogman, Als, and Tronick (1979) described synchrony as including cognitive, behavioral, and affective components which are used to convey information within a "mutually regulated feedback system" (p. 30). In addition, Rocissano, Slade, and Lynch (1987) noted that when a mother and child interact in synchrony with each other, it is more likely that the child will comply with the mother's instructions. Rocissano et al. examined the relationship between dyadic synchrony and child compliance during the toddler period and found that dyadic synchrony was positively correlated with child compliance. Moveover, children were more likely to comply with synchronous caretakers' instructions than with asynchronous instruction.

Attempts to extend the concept of synchrony beyond infancy often have resulted in an extension of the original definition of synchrony as well. …


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