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Child conflict in adoptive families and non-adoptive families: The role of family communication. Martha A. Rueter Department of Family Social Science Margaret A. Keyes Minnesota Center for Twin and Family Research Ascan F. Koerner Department of Communication Studies

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Child conflict in

adoptive families and non-adoptive families:

The role of family communication

Martha A. Rueter

Department of Family Social Science

Margaret A. Keyes

Minnesota Center for Twin and Family Research

Ascan F. Koerner

Department of Communication Studies

University of Minnesota


Sibling Interaction Behavior Study (SIBS)

Research Team

Matt McGue, PI

Bill Iacano

Irene Elkins

Meg Keyes

Martha Rueter

SIBS is funded by grants for the US government: NIMH, NIDA, NIAAA


Sibling Interaction Behavior Study (SIBS)

Participants

N = 616 families, each with two participating children.

Child M age = 14.9 years.

Families with 2 adopted children: N =285

Families with 1 adopted child, 1 biological child: N =124

Families with 2 biological children: N = 208

M age of adoption = 4.7 months.

All adoptees placed within 2 years of age.

27.3% domestically adopted, 72.3% internationally adopted.


Self-reported parent-child conflict

Dark Bars: Adoptive

Light Bars: Biological

p < .05

p < .05

p < .05

p < .05

Mean conflict level

Rueter et al, 2009


Within family comparisons:

Self-reported parent-child conflict

Dark Bars:

Adopted child

Light Bars:

Biological child

p < .05

p < .05

p < .05

Mean conflict level

Rueter et al, 2009


Observed parent-child conflictual behavior

Dark Bars: Adoptive

Light Bars: Biological

Mean conflict level

p < .05

p < .05

Rueter et al, 2009


Family Communication Patterns Theory

(Koerner & Fitzpatrick, 2004)

Optimal family functioning requires that members achieve a

shared social reality

Shared social reality exists when family members

(A) Agree.

(B) Accurately perceive their agreement.


Family Communication Patterns Theory

(Koerner & Fitzpatrick, 2004)

Shared Social Reality

Achieved through reliance on a combination of 2 orientations.

Conversation Orientation: Emphasizes conversation

to achieve shared social reality.

Conformity Orientation: Emphasizes conformity

to achieve shared social reality.


Family Communication Patterns (FCP)

High

Protective

Consensual

Conformity Orientation

Laissez-Faire

Pluralistic

Low

High

Conversation Orientation


Child conflict levels by family communication pattern

Conformity Orientation

Conversation Orientation

Child conflict levels by Family Communication Pattern

Protective

Consensual

Moderate conflict

Lowest conflict

Laissez-Faire

Highest conflict

Pluralistic

Moderate conflict


Study Hypotheses

Hypothesis 1:

Child conflict varies by FCP.

Family

Communication

Pattern

Child

Conflict


Study Hypotheses

Hypothesis 2:

Child conflict varies by adoption status.

Family

Communication

Pattern

Child

Conflict

Adopted

vs.

Non-adopted


Study Hypotheses

Hypothesis 3:

Adoption status and FCP interact . . .

Family

Communication

Pattern

Child

Conflict

Adopted

vs.

Non-adopted


Hypothesized interaction between family communication pattern and adoption status

Conformity Orientation

Conversation Orientation

Hypothesized interaction between Family Communication Pattern and adoption status

Protective

Consensual

Adopted higher

than non-adopted

Adopted similar

to non-adopted

Laissez-Faire

Adopted higher

than non-adopted

Pluralistic

Adopted higher

than non-adopted


Study Hypotheses

Hypothesis 1:

Child conflict varies by FCP.

Hypothesis 2:

Child conflict varies by adoption status.

Hypothesis 3:

Adoption status and FCP interact such that . . .

H3a: Among adoptive families,

conflict varies by FCP.

H2b: Among non-adoptive families,

conflict does not vary by FCP.


E

M

F

E

Y

M

E

Y

M

F

Y

F

E

M

F

Y

Measuring Family Communication Patterns

Observed Communication

ObservedListening

ObservedWarmth

Observed Control

Family

Communication

Patterns

(4 Latent Classes)

Rueter et al, 2008


Dark Bars:

Adoptive

Light Bars:

Biological

Rueter et al, 2009


Measuring Child Conflict

Sum of 4 observed ratings:

Child hostility to (1) mother and to (2) father.

Extent to which child’s behavior was characterized as angry, hostile, contemptuous.

Child coercion to (3) mother and to (4) father.

Extent to which child’s behavior was characterized as demanding, threatening.


Conformity Orientation

Conversation Orientation

Hypothesis Testing

Hypothesis 1: Child conflict varies by FCP.

Protective

Consensual

Moderate conflict

Lowest conflict

Laissez-Faire

Highest conflict

Pluralistic

Moderate conflict


Hypothesis 1: Child conflict levels vary by FCP

Observed Child Conflict by Family Communication Pattern

Mean conflict level


Hypothesis 2 child conflict levels vary by adoption status
Hypothesis 2: Child conflict levels vary by adoption status

Observed child conflict by adoption status

Dark Bars: Adoptive

Light Bars: Biological

Mean conflict level


Hypothesis 3: Adoption status and FCP interact

Observed child conflict by adoption status and FCP

Dark Bars:

Adoptive

Light Bars:

Biological

Mean conflict level


Conclusions and Future Directions

Family

Communication

Pattern

Family

Communication

Pattern

Child

Conflict

Family Shared

Social Reality

Child

Conflict

Adopted

vs.

Non-adopted

Adopted

vs.

Non-adopted


Conclusions and Future Directions

Family

Communication

Pattern

Family

Communication

Pattern

Child

Conflict

Family Shared

Social Reality

Child

Conflict

Adopted

vs.

Non-adopted

Adopted

vs.

Non-adopted


Observed warm, supportive behavior

Dark Bars: Adoptive

Light Bars: Biological

Mother-adolescent

Father-adolescent

Mean warmth level

Rueter et al, 2009


Observed parental control

Dark Bars: Adoptive

Light Bars: Biological

Mean control level

p < .05

Rueter et al, 2009


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