Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Cognitive and Behavioral Predictors of Communication in Clinic-Referred and Nonclinical Mother-Adolescent Dyads

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Cognitive and Behavioral Predictors of Communication in Clinic-Referred and Nonclinical Mother-Adolescent Dyads

Article excerpt

JANET S. REED Missouri Institute of Mental Health ERIC F. DuBow Bowling Green State University*

This study examines the relation between mothers' and adolescents' perceptions of one another's behavior and their actual communication behavior during a problem-solving task. Forty mother-adolescent dyads completed self-report and observational measures of conflict and negative beliefs regarding the other. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses indicated that adolescents' negative beliefs about their mothers significantly contributed unique variance in predicting adolescent negative communication, beyond the effects of maternal communication behavior. Thus, treatment of parent-adolescent conflict should address adolescents' and parents' perceptions of one another, as well as their problemsolving behavior.

Key Words: adolescence, cognitions, communication, observational measures, parent-child relations.

An estimated 15% to 20% of adolescents aged 12 through 17 years experience significant levels of parent-adolescent communication problems, to the point that they may feel distressed enough to seek professional help (Montemayor, 1983). Researchers associate poor parent-adolescent communication with schizophrenia, aggression, low academic achievement, problems in social competence, difficulties with individuation, suicidal behavior, depressive symptomatology, and low self-esteem (Demo, Small, & Savin-Williams, 1987; Isberg et al., 1989; Tesser, Forehand, Brody, & Long, 1989). Only a few investigators (Alexander, Barton, Waldron, & Mas, 1989; Vincent Roehling & Robin, 1986) have examined the role of perceptions or interpretations of the other's behavior in relation to parent-adolescent communication. This type of investigation, which forms the basis for our study, is important because individuals' cognitions are increasingly cited as potential determinants of behavior. From the social learning perspective, "psychological functioning is determined by the environment, by the behavior of the individual, and by factors associated with the person" (Robinson & Jacobson, 1987, p. 122).

PARENT AND ADOLESCENT COMMUNICATION BEHAVIOR

Both self-report and observational measures of parent-adolescent communication have been associated with adolescent adjustment indices such as self-esteem (Demo et al., 1987; Isberg et al., 1989), grade point average, cognitive competence, social competence, acting-out behavior, and depressive symptoms (Alexander 1973a, 1973b; Prinz, Foster, Kent, & O'Leary, 1979; Tesser et al., 1989). These associations were generally stronger among male adolescents than among female adolescents.

Researchers have employed observational methods to examine the bidirectional nature of parent and adolescent communication behavior or reciprocity as defined in the family systems literature (Alexander 1973a, 1973b). Alexander found that observed negative communication between parents and their delinquent adolescents was moderately to highly correlated, as was positive communication among parents and their nondelinquent adolescents.

Both self-report and observational measures of parent and adolescent communication behaviors are important assessment methods. Although selfreport methods assess the "insider's perspective" of events, direct observation yields the "outsider's perspective" (Robin, Koepke, & Nayar, 1986). Self-report methods provide information about an individual's perceptions but may be subject to significant social desirability effects (Smith & Forehand, 1986). Observational methods, on the other hand, provide information about an individual's behaviors during interactions but are based on a limited amount of interaction time.

ROLE OF PARENT AND ADOLESCENT COGNITIONS

Parents' and adolescents' cognitions (e.g., family belief systems, expectations, and attributions of another) may be related to the behaviors that parents and adolescents exhibit toward one another, as well as to adolescent adjustment. …

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