A path modeling approach to understanding family conflict: Reciprocal patterns of parent coercion and adolescent avoidanceedit
Conflict between parents and adolescents involves reciprocal exchanges in which family members influence and shape each other’s behavior. This study uses multilevel path analysis to examine interrelations in observed behavior during 15-min conflict discussions conducted by 103 family triads, looking specifically at parent coercive and youth avoidant behaviors. We also explore the moderating roles of parents’ past aggressive family conflict behavior on parents’ responses to youth behavior. Discussions were coded in 3-min segments. Analyses used time-lagged codes so that a family member’s behavior in 1 segment predicted another family member’s behavior in the following segment. The fully saturated cross-lagged model tested all possible paths (parents’ behavior predicting parents’ and youths’ subsequent behavior, and vice versa). Parents’ coercive behavior was associated with more avoidant youth behavior in the following segment when controlling for youths’ prior avoidant behavior. The opposite direction of effects also emerged: Mothers became more coercive when youth were more avoidant in a prior segment. Fathers’ coercive behavior was not associated with youths’ prior behavior and, with both parents in the same model, father and youth behavior were no longer associated; however, fathers’ coercive behavior predicted more mother coercive behavior in the following segment. Mothers who had behaved more aggressively during family conflict over 2 waves of data collection became more coercive when youths were more avoidant, although parents’ history of aggressive family conflict behavior did not moderate father-to-youth or youth-to-parent paths.