Adolescents' Perceptions of Family Functioning in the United Arab Emirates

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

This study aimed at understanding family functioning in the UAE in view of the importance of this kind of research in such a newly investigated society. Further, the fact that recent research trends depict family health from a systemic point of view rather than from a single dimension which might not give a reliable understanding of family functioning (Lewis, 1978; Roelofse & Middleton, 1985).

Recently, several models and instruments were developed to investigate the dynamics of family functioning. These include: Family Functioning in Adolescence Questionnaire (Roelofse & Middleton, 1985); Family Interaction Patterns Scale (Bhatti, Krishna, & Ageira, 1986); Family Adaptability and Cohesion Evaluation Scale (Olson, 1986); Family Assessment Measure (Thomas, Roy, & Cook, 1991); Family Environment Scale (Moos, 1974); McMaster Model of Family Functioning (Maziade, Bernier, Thivierge, & Cote, 1987); and Family Health Scale (Kinston, Loader, & Miller, 1987). There is also a wide range of family system research (e.g., Dodson & Kurpius (1977); Hetherington (1992); Russell & Morrill (1989); Ludlow & Howard (1990). The present study is an attempt to examine the perception of young people in the UAE of their families in terms of the psychological environment provided for accomplishing the developmental tasks of adolescence.

Adolescent's perception of their family life is one way to investigate general family functioning. Some studies have found no variation in family functioning scores of patient subjects and their family members (Bhatti, Krishna, & Ageira, 1986). Family functioning was perceived as a main matrix for developing adolescents' skills in coping effectively with day-to-day stresses (Alnajjar, 1991; Coleman, 1980).

Research on these family models indicate that many factors contribute to the psychosocial functioning of the family and in turn, the psychosocial impact upon its adolescent members. By examining the relationship between family structure and high school students' achievements, Astone and McLanahan (1991) found that major differences were attributable to the parents' educational aspirations and parenting style. Family structure and parental conflict were seen to be related to social and psychological problems of some adolescents (Ganong & Coleman, 1992). It also was found that adolescents from nonintact families were more likely to have a lower level of life satisfaction than were those from intact families, which indicates an association between family structure and life satisfaction (Pardeck et al., 1991). Another study found a strong relationship between parents' ability to fulfill adolescents' needs for support and encouragement and their self-confidence to function in society through building new relationships with others (Alnajjar, 1991; Coleman, 1980).

Moreover, research has confirmed that emotional fulfillment, warmth, and affection are significantly related to competence and healthy communication, stressing that internal relations of family members are critical in assessing family functioning (Bhatti, Krishna, & Ageira, 1986; Maziade et al., 1987).

As another important dimension of family functioning, behavioral control and behavior problems could be predicted from family cohesion and child emotionality (Varni, Rubenfled, Talbot, & Setoguchi, 1990; Maziade et al., 1987). Transmission of social values and beliefs from parents to child is one of the main socialization aspects of family, irrespective of whether the transmission is direct or indirect; ethically motivated and religious families are more likely to be more more involved in this transmission (Varni et al., 1990; Lewis, 1978).

A significant aim of this study was to focus on families in one of the developing countries in the Arab World that has considerable potential resources. The rapid movement toward urbanization and incorporation of the most recent technology from all parts of the word make UAE a prime area for study. …