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EFFECTS OF MATERNAL AFFECT AND COMMUNICATION ON
MOTHER-DAUGHTER CONFLICT RESOLUTION
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF SCIENCE
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
I would like to acknowledge the study participants who gave their time to this
research, the staff of the Girls' Health and Development Project at Teachers College at
Columbia University for their assistance in this research, and to the National Institute of
Child Health and Human Development (NICHD; HD32376) and the National Institute of
Mental Health (NIMH; MH56557) for their financial support of this project. I would like
to thank Julie Graber for her constant guidance and support, her excellent editorial
assistance, and for her superb mentoring. I would also like to thank Scott Miller for
bringing me into the developmental psychology program and for his continual
encouragement and support during my time in the program. I would like to express my
gratitude for the many helpful suggestions of my committee members, Ken Rice and Lise
Youngblade, and for the excellent advice and instruction so generously provided by
Sarah Lynn. I would especially like to thank my husband, Tom Auxter, and children,
Racine and Sebastian, for all their support and encouragement and for providing me with
the time and resources to further my education.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ............................................. ii
LIST OF TABLES ............ .......................................... v
ABSTRACT ............ ............................................. vi
INTRODUCTION .............. ............................ 1
Conflict Affect, Rate, and Resolution ................ ................... 3
Maternal Affect and Communication ..................................... 6
Current Investigation ............... ............................. 11
METHOD ........... ............................................... 13
Participants ............. ............................... ............ 13
Procedure ............ ................................. ............ 13
M measures ............................................ ............ 16
RESULTS ................ ............................ .23
Analysis Plan ............ .......................................... 28
Predicting Solution Quality .......................................... 28
Solution Agreement ................ ............................ 31
SUMMARY ........... ..............................................33
Discussion ............ ............................................ 33
Future Directions and Implications ................ ................... 37
APPENDIX GIRLS AND BOYS HEALTH AND DEVELOPMENT PROJECT
CONFLICT RESOLUTION CODEBOOK ....................... 40
Introduction ............ ........................................... 40
Child-Rearing Issues Form ................ ......................... 42
Solution Quality Scale ................................. ... .......... 43
Solution Agreement Scale ........................................... 47
Lecture/Moralize Scale .................................. ...........48
R E FE R E N C E S ..................................................... 50
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .............................................. 55
LIST OF TABLES
1 Family background characteristics ................ ................... 23
2 Correlations among mothers' behavior ................................... 24
3 Means and standard deviations of mothers' affective characteristics and
outcome e variables ..................................... ............. 24
4 Correlations among independent and dependent measures and covariates ........ 27
5 Hierarchical regression model examining mothers' positive behavior as a
predictor of solution quality and agreement, controlling for covariates .......... 29
6 Hierarchical regression model examining mothers' negative behavior as a
predictor of solution quality and agreement, controlling for covariates .......... 29
7 Hierarchical regression model examining conflict frequency and intensity as
predictors of solution quality and agreement, controlling for covariates .......... 30
8 Hierarchical regression analyses examining mother and daughter solution quality
as predictors of solution agreement, controlling for covariates ................. 32
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School o
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science
EFFECTS OF MATERNAL AFFECT AND COMMUNICATION ON
MOTHER-DAUGHTER CONFLICT RESOLUTION
Chair: Julia A. Graber
Major Department: Psychology
The study examined whether specific parenting behaviors were associated with
the quality of solutions generated during a mother-daughter conflict resolution task. A
sample of 132 mothers and their daughters completed surveys about conflict experiences
and participated in a videotaped discussion of two specific issues of disagreement.
Mothers' affective and communicative behaviors were not found to be associated with
girls' higher solution quality. However, higher solution quality scores among girls were
found to be associated with higher rates of solution agreement. In addition, the frequency
and intensity of conflict were found to be strong predictors of girls' solution quality and
solution agreement. Information about the influence of conflict frequency and intensity
on family problem-solving could be useful to those working in clinical and educational
settings with families.
Family conflict has been shown to impact children's well-being, with higher
levels of conflict associated with higher internalizing and externalizing problems and
poorer peer relations (Clark & Armstead, 2000; Dadds, Atkinson, Turner, Blums, &
Lendich, 1999; Vandewater & Lansford, 1998). Much of the research on family conflict
has focused on distressed families and on the effects of marital conflict upon children,
while few studies have looked at conflict resolution between parents and children.
Moreover, social conflict studies have primarily looked at preschool age children in
school and laboratory settings (Shantz, 1987), with very little research conducted on
family relations in middle childhood. Research findings provide evidence that many of
the changes that occur in family dynamics in adolescence have their roots in early and
middle childhood family relations (Laursen & Collins, 1994; Steinberg, 1990). Thus,
understanding middle childhood family relations is essential to an understanding of
longer-term family dynamics. The current study expands upon this literature by
examining family conflict in a parent-child interaction during the middle-childhood
period, focusing specifically on mothers and daughters.
Research has explored the ways in which parenting practices impact family
relations throughout childhood. Parenting behaviors that are supportive and affirming,
such as being warm and responsive, have been shown to be associated with better
developmental outcomes for children and adolescents (McCabe & Clark, 1999;
Steinberg, Mounts, Lamborn, & Dornbusch, 1991). Negative parental affect, such as
parental hostility, has been found to be associated with higher levels of internalizing and
externalizing behavior in children (Conger, Ge, Elder, & Lorenz, 1994). Effective family
problem-solving has also been found to be associated with better peer relations and lower
levels of internalizing behaviors in children (Ashley & Tomasello, 1998; Coughlin, &
Vuchinich, 1996; Dadds, Atkinson, Turner, Blums, & Lendich, 1999; Dodge & Price,
1994). Research has found that the parenting practice of engaging in joint decision-
making with children was associated with increased academic achievement and
decreased drug use among adolescents (Brown, Mounts, Lambom, & Steinberg,
1993). Avoidant family conflict resolution behaviors, such as avoiding discussion,
leaving after disagreements, and becoming emotionally distant have been found to be
associated with higher levels of internalizing problems among adolescents (Dadds,
Atkinson, Turner, Blums, & Lendich, 1999). Forgatch (1989) found parental negative
emotions to be negatively associated with family problem-solving outcome among 4th,
7th, and 10th grade boys. Families' inability to resolve conflict was found to be correlated
with higher rates of verbal and physical aggression in 4th and 7th grade boys. In addition,
inhibiting negative feelings and staying focused on the problem solving were found to be
beneficial in attempting to resolve differences.
The present study examined family problem-solving during structured discussions
in the home. The study analyzes parenting behaviors to determine whether specific
affective and communicative behaviors are related to resolving conflict between mothers
and daughters. Determining which parenting behaviors are likely to impact positively
family problem-solving can improve family relations, lead to healthier individual
psychological functioning, help develop parenting skills, and be relevant to broader
social skills training for both adults and children.
Conflict Affect, Rate, and Resolution
Cognitive, emotional, and maturational changes at the end of middle childhood,
as well as the restructuring of parent-child roles during the transition to adolescence, may
lead to marked changes in rate and intensity of parent-child conflict. Traditionally,
researchers have argued that adolescence is a period of increased frequency of parent-
child conflict and is a reflection of children's changing emotional needs and cognitions
(Bandura, 1969; Hall, 1904). In the psychoanalytic model, the transition to adolescence is
marked by a child's need to challenge parents in an effort to separate from them and
create an independent identity. The model assumes that conflict is an inherent aspect of
the parent-child relationship as the child moves through adolescence. In the cognitive-
developmental model, cognitive reorganization takes place across middle childhood and
adolescence, affecting parent-child and peer relationships. Cognitive changes that occur
in adolescence, such as the ability to engage in systematic and complex reasoning and to
engage in greater critical thinking, may impact the parent-child relationship by
diminishing the intellectual gap (Paikoff & Brooks-Gunn, 1991). Underlying issues of
autonomy, independence, and equality may influence parent-adolescent conflict. In
addition, the frequency and intensity of conflict during this period may be related to
pubertal timing and to shifts in parent-child power dynamics (Graber & Brooks-Gunn,
1996; Steinberg, 1990).
Since most studies begin in early adolescence, it is difficult to determine whether
there is a change in conflict from prior levels, as it is possible that the observed changes
began at a prior stage of development. An advantage of the current study is that the
participants are recruited in the third grade, which provides an opportunity to examine
conflict prior to the onset of adolescence.
Recent research demonstrates a more complex picture of how parent-child
conflict changes across middle childhood and adolescence, with affect, or intensity, of
conflict showing a different pattern than that of rate, or frequency, of conflict. Laursen,
Coy, and Collins (1998) found that disagreements between parents and children become
less frequent but more unpleasant during adolescence. The researchers performed a series
of meta-analyses examining change in parent-child conflict rate and intensity across ages
10 to 22, and found conflict rate and affect varied as a function of age. They found that
parent-child affect became more heated during mid-adolescence and then decreased
slightly during late adolescence, but was at the lowest level during early adolescence. In
contrast, frequency of parent-child conflict appeared to decline across adolescence. This
is in opposition to the commonly held belief that conflict rate follows an inverted
U-shaped curvilinear path throughout adolescence (Montemayor, 1983). The decline
found in conflict rate may be a function of a decrease in parent-child interaction during
adolescence (Csikszentmihalyi & Laursen, 1984). Alterations in conflict affect could be
due to the emotional liability characteristic of adolescence as well as to issues of
independence and autonomy (Steinberg, 1990).
Researchers have found evidence that changes during adolescence are gradual
rather than abrupt, and are developmental transformations as opposed to periodic
disruptions (Laursen & Collins, 1994). Thus, rather than traditional models that suggest
that relationships change dramatically at adolescence, especially in terms of rate and
intensity of conflict, Laursen and Collins (1994) have proposed a social relational model.
The social relational model advocates continuity across development. The model
postulates a gradual incremental change in the parent-child relationship across childhood
and adolescence as opposed to a model of major shift or transformation during the time
of adolescence. Social relational theory emphasizes the social and situational context of
relationships. Changes in behavior are understood to be gradual as a consequence of the
stability inherent in close relationships (Laursen & Collins, 1994). Behavior is believed
to vary as a function of the closeness and voluntary nature of the relationship. The social
relational model draws from equity theory by analyzing power differentials and
interdependence as factors motivating behavior. A model of stability argues for stable
parenting behaviors across the entire childhood years; that is, behaviors may be
consistent in style even if specific practices are adjusted to be age appropriate.
Successful resolution of conflict often requires that an individual be able to take
into account the interests and perspectives of others. Piaget (1928, 1932) theorized that
conflict can be a means of reducing egocentrism by forcing an individual to take
another's perspective. Piaget posited that conflict is resolved, albeit temporarily, through
a process of assimilation and accommodation. He proposed that an individual may be
moved into a state of disequilibrium when presented with discrepant information. The
individual then attempts to restore equilibrium through the process of changing existent
sensorimotor and mental schemata to accommodate the new information. A similar
process can be observed when people enter into a dialogue in an attempt to resolve
conflict. When one party's position on an issue is challenged, an attempt may be made to
assimilate the information presented by the other party (i.e. process feedback), requiring
accommodation of the original position. Thus, arriving at an acceptable solution may
entail modifying one's view and being willing to move from one's position to
accommodate another's viewpoint (Scanzoni & Polonko, 1980; Smetana, Yau, &
Hanson, 1991). One needs to be able to state a position, provide support for that position,
listen to other positions, and incorporate the information in order to generate a
compromise and attain a mutually agreeable solution. This give and take in the
discussion of an issue of conflict can help clarify the nature of the problem and give rise
to viable solutions (Hepworth, Rooney, and Larsen, 1997).
However, power differentials could affect the nature of family conflict resolution.
Conflicts between parents and children have been found to result in angry affect,
assertions of parental power, and coercion on the part of parents (Adams & Laursen,
2001), which could impede conflict resolution. These conditions, in addition to the
nonegalitarian nature of parent-child relations, could result in a higher likelihood that
parents will generate solutions to issues of conflict than will children in the middle
This study examined parent-child conflict during middle childhood in order to
better understand effective family problem-solving. The study explored the effects of
mothers' behaviors on the quality of solutions generated and on the attainment of
solution agreement during a discussion of conflictual issues. In addition, conflict
frequency and intensity were examined in relation to solution agreement. The present
research aimed to further our knowledge of family dynamics at entry into adolescence
and to provide information about how parenting behaviors impact family conflict
Maternal Affect and Communication
Parenting affect and communication have been found to be correlated with a host
of adjustment outcomes in children. Parental warmth and hostility have been found to be
associated with children's self-esteem, academic achievement, self-reliance, anxiety,
distress, peer acceptance, anger, and problem-solving ability. The present investigation
examined the following maternal affective and communication behaviors as expressed in
a conflict situation in relation to mother-daughter conflict resolution.
Warmth entails such qualities as affirmation and affection and has been defined
as including acceptance, positive regard, responsiveness, and approval (Maccoby &
Martin, 1983; McCabe & Clark, 1999). Parental warmth has been found to be associated
with greater well-being (i.e. internalizing and externalizing behaviors, trouble with peers)
among girls (Vandewater & Lansford, 1998). Moreover, a warm family interaction style
has been found to be associated with good problem solving among adolescent girls, but
not boys (Reuter & Conger 1995). Parent-adolescent warmth was proposed to be a more
significant factor than conflict resolution strategies in family conflict with adolescent
girls (Rueter & Conger, 1995).
Adolescents exposed to low levels of parental warmth and high levels of conflict
were found to have poorer psychological functioning in such areas as social adjustment
and academic achievement (Fuhrman & Holmbeck, 1995). The present study examined
maternal warmth during a mother-daughter conflict-resolution task to see whether
maternal warmth as manifested during the interaction affects solution generation and
Parental hostility has been found to be associated with higher levels of
internalizing and externalizing behavior in children (Conger, Ge, Elder, & Lorenz,
1994). Maternal anger has been found to lead to higher levels of problem behaviors in
girl children (Dreman, 2003). Depressive symptomatology involving hostility, as
displayed in high rates of irritability and aggression, can trigger the expression of anger
and distress on the part of children (Cummings, Zahn-Waxler, & Radke-Yarrow, 1981).
Aggressive family interaction style has been found to be associated with ineffective
problem solving (McColloch, Gilbert, & Johnson, 1990). The current study examined the
association between family problem-solving and hostile/aggressive maternal behavior
during a parent-child interaction.
Assertiveness can be conceptualized as an individual's ability to openly put forth,
either verbally or nonverbally, feelings, desires, expectations, thoughts, individual rights,
opinions, perceptions, and beliefs (Hepworth, Rooney, & Larsen, 1997; Weber, Wiedig,
Freyer, & Gralher, 2004). Assertive verbal behaviors that express agreement or dissent
include describing, explaining, stating, declaring, questioning, critiquing, refusing,
requesting, encouraging/discouraging dialogue, and speaking in a firm and moderate tone
of voice Nonverbal assertive behaviors include facial expressions and body movements
or stances, such as relaxed posture, direct eye contact, appropriate facial expressions
(Hepworth, Rooney, & Larsen, 1997). Assertiveness can entail communicating in a way
that is respectful, calm, and firm (Mazur & Ebesu Hubbard, 2004). Assertiveness is
distinct form aggression, which involves violating the rights of others (Lange, &
Jakubowski, 1976; Hepworth, Rooney, & Larsen, 1997) and is identified with a different
set of behaviors (e.g., glaring, clenched fists and jaws, demeaning or loud tone of voice,
rigid stance). Weber, Wiedig, Freyer, and Gralher (2004) found assertiveness to be an
important social skill in managing conflict and in handling anger-provoking behavior.
The researchers found assertiveness to be negatively related to social anxiety,
submission, and rumination in adults, and to be positively associated with the use of
feedback and humor (operationalized as the use of humorous remarks or the
interpretation of a provocation as amusing). The ability to exercise one's rights by
speaking clearly, confidently, and honestly about one's own best interest, without
denying the rights of other individuals, is a social skill with the potential to protect and
develop the emotional needs of both agent and recipient. Assertiveness could be an
important aspect of effective communication and, as such, may be associated with more
effective family problem solving.
Adams and Laursen (2001) proposed that the inherent power differential in
familial relations allows for dominant and coercive behaviors. The authors examined the
topic, resolution, and outcome of parent-child conflict and found that parent-child
conflicts resulted in neutral or angry affect, assertions of power, and win-lose
conclusions. The authors proposed that parent-child conflict is reflective of the
nonegalitarian, obligatory nature of the relationship, and is conditioned by the fact that
the chance of relationship dissolution is minimal. These behaviors are minimized in peer
relations for fear of dissolution of friendship. They found that familial relations were
marked by compulsory, unilateral rules and that parents engaged in coercion during
conflict. This raises the question of whether dominant behavior on the part of parents is
detrimental to the resolution of parent-child conflict.
The current investigation also looked at how mothers' use of lecturing or
moralizing behaviors impacted both the quality of solutions generated during the
videotaped discussion and the likelihood of reaching agreement on a proposed solution.
Effective problem-solving involves the ability to present a problem without blaming or
attacking other participants. Overgeneralized, accusatory, or negative messages elicit
defensive rather than collaborative behavior from others (Hepworth, Rooney, & Larsen,
1997). Smetana and Asquith (1994) found that areas of conflict between parents and
children that were understood as involving moral (e.g., stealing, lying, hitting) and
conventional issues (e.g., chores, manners, cursing) were considered to be more
obligatory and to be under parental jurisdiction. It is thereby conceivable that when a
parent adopts a moralizing or lecturing tone, the child may respond to the issue under
discussion as though it were under parental jurisdiction. Thus high levels of moralizing
or lecturing behaviors may tend to interfere with discussion.
Contextual factors surrounding the family may alter the effects of specific
parental behaviors on child outcome and on conflict resolution. Parent educational level
has been found to be positively associated with the parental communication behaviors of
listening, explaining, and negotiating (Smetana, Crean, & Daddis, 2002). Smetana and
Gaines (1999) found that frequency of parent child conflict increased in families where
parents had less education and in single-parent households. Parent educational level and
marital status were found to be negatively associated with the frequency of parent-child
conflict among African American 11- to 14-year-olds (Smetana & Gaines, 1999).
Research has examined the effects of ethnicity upon parenting behavioral outcomes. In
studies using Western European samples, authoritarian parenting techniques have been
found to be associated with lower levels of parental warmth and parental perspective-
taking (Grusec, Rudy, & Martini, 1997). However, researchers have found that stricter
parental control and parental unilateral decision-making to be associated with lower
levels of deviance among low-income African American families and higher levels of
academic achievement among African Americans and Asians. In light of these findings,
researchers have proposed that stricter parenting may serve as a protective factor in high-
risk environments (Lamborn, Dorbusch, & Steinberg, 1996; Steinberg, 2001).
Acceptance of a stricter parenting style within a group may be a response to societal
factors such as racism and discrimination, and such acceptance may be viewed as an
effective coping strategy. Additionally the effects of parenting practices may be tempered
by other factors such as warmth, open communication, and support. One goal of this
study was to look at the process of conflict resolution using a diverse sample while
controlling for daughters' race/ethnicity, mothers' education and marital status, and
The current investigation studied a sample of 132 third grade girls and their
mothers during a videotaped structured discussion session. The sample is both
socioeconomically and culturally diverse. Villanueva, Graber, and Brooks-Gunn (2006)
explored whether maternal affective and communicative behaviors were related to the
frequency and intensity of mother-daughter conflict, using the same participants as those
of the present study. Mothers' communication behaviors were found to be significantly
associated with mothers' report of conflict frequency. Also, significant correlations were
found for the frequency and intensity of conflict. The present research extended this work
by looking at mother-daughter conflict resolution and its association with maternal
affective and communicative behaviors. The study examined whether maternal affect and
communication impact the outcome of conflict resolution, specifically in terms of
solution quality and solution agreement. Both mothers' and daughters' responses were
analyzed in terms of solution quality. The present study investigated the following
The first hypothesis looked at the quality of solutions generated, a construct
measuring participants' ability to solve problems constructively and negotiate solutions.
It was expected that higher quality solutions would be associated with greater maternal
warmth, assertiveness, and communication and with lower maternal hostility and
A second goal of the study was to examine maternal behaviors that could impact
participants' ability to reach an agreed upon solution. The likelihood of arriving at an
agreed upon solution was predicted to increase as maternal warmth, assertiveness, and
communication increased and as maternal hostility and dominance decreased.
The third goal of the research was to explore the effects of specific
communicative behaviors on discussion outcome. It was expected that high levels of
parental lecturing and moralizing behaviors would be negatively associated with the
quality of solutions generated by the child and by the mother and with the likelihood of
arriving at an agreed upon solution.
A final goal of the study was to examine the relationship between the solutions
generated by the participants and the frequency and intensity of mother-daughter conflict.
It was expected that the quality of solutions generated by mothers and by daughters
would be negatively associated with the frequency and intensity of conflict.
Participants were 132 third grade girls, ages 8 and 9 (M= 8.41, SD = .60), and
their mothers. The children were recruited from racially integrated New York City public
elementary schools. Based on mothers' report, 37.1% (49) of the girls were African
American, 46.2% (61) were Caucasian, and 16.7% (22) were Hispanic. The participants
were from the New York City area. The families were of lower to middle socioeconomic
status. The participants' demographic information reflected that of the neighborhoods
they were drawn from. The median family size was 4. Most of the mothers had
completed high school or college, or had obtained a general equivalency document
(GED); only 1.6% of the mothers had not completed high school and had not obtained a
GED. The mean family income was $34,500 and 61.8% of mothers were employed
outside the home.
Participants were recruited through flyers distributed at schools. The study was
limited to those households in which the participating parent and child were both
competent in English as determined through the initial telephone contact. This was
considered necessary for the coding of the videotaped conflict discussion task. Parents
and children were interviewed in their homes. Families received $60 for participating in
the research and girls received a T-shirt at the conclusion of the home visit. Protocols for
the study were approved by the IRB at Teacher's College, Columbia University.
Secondary coding conducted at the University of Florida was approved by the IRB at the
University of Florida.
Home visit. A team of 2 data collectors visited participants in their home. They
explained the study procedures and obtained informed consent from both parent and
child. Written informed consent, including consent for videotaping, was obtained from
parent and child participants at the beginning of the first home visit. Parents were
interviewed and given a packet to complete containing family background
characteristics. Both the parent and child were then given a Conflict Issues Checklist
(Hetherington & Clingempeel, 1992) to complete. The checklist was designed to evaluate
the degree and frequency of parent-adolescent conflict, and to identify the issues about
which parents and children (ages 9 through 17) disagree or argue. Data collectors read
each item on the checklist to the child. The mother completed the checklist on her
own. The team of data collectors reviewed the completed checklists and chose 2 of the
items that were marked by both parent and child and which were the most emotionally
charged for use in the subsequent conflict task. If there were not 2 identical items in the
parent and child checklists, then the data collectors chose an item or items from each
The mother and child were then presented with a conflict task in which they were
asked to discuss the 2 selected issues of conflict. The participants were informed that the
conflicts identified were common issues of family conflict. Questions were provided to
them as an aid in guiding the discussion: "What is the problem?," "How does the
problem begin?," "Who becomes involved in the problem?," and "What might be done to
avoid this problem in the future?". Participants were instructed to answer all 4 questions
verbally and the data collectors then left the room prior to the beginning of the
discussion. Participants were given 7 minutes to discuss the 2 selected issues. The entire
conflict task was videotaped.
Scoring of parent scales and conflict task. The present study analyzed the
videotaped conflict task in terms of mothers' and daughters' solution quality, solution
agreement, and mothers' lecturing/moralizing behaviors. The solution quality and
solution agreement scales were from a conflict resolution codebook developed for this
study. The lecture/moralize scale was adapted from one developed by Melby et al.
(1998). Scores for solution agreement and solution quality were categorical, and scores
for lecture/moralize were on a Likert-type scale with a range of 0-2.
The maternal affective behavior scales of communication, listener
responsiveness, assertiveness, dominance, warmth, and hostility were from the Parent-
Child Conflict Task Videotape Codebook (Graber & Abraham, 2001) and were coded
previously (Villanueva-Abraham, 2004). This codebook was based on 2 previous coding
systems: The Iowa Family Interactions Rating Scale (Melby et al., 1998), used to
measure warmth, dominance, and listener responsiveness; and The Life Skills Training
coding system (Graber et al., 1999), used to measure communication, aggression, and
assertiveness. All of the constructs were measured on a 5-point Likert-type scale from 1
= not at all characteristic to 5 = highly characteristic.
Coders were trained to identify particular behavioral parental indicators of affect
for each construct being measured. Coders scored separate scales on practice videotaped
recordings of the parent-child conflict task. They trained until they reached a reliability
level of agreement with the standard of 85% and then began coding nonpractice
videotaped sessions. Reliability was checked on 20% of the tapes once the coders were
trained to criterion. Coders were retrained if they fell below the criterion and replaced if
they consistently were unable to maintain agreement levels. The same training procedure
was used in the prior coding of maternal affective behavior scales and in the coding of
the new scales used in the present investigation. Solution codes for the prior Likert-type
maternal affective behavior scales used within 1 as acceptable reliability at 85%. New
codes for this investigation were mainly categorical and exact match was used as
Solution quality scale. Solution quality was assessed in terms of specific
elements of the conversation that were helpful in generating solutions. Solution quality
scores ranged from 0 to 5: 0 = no solution proposed: the participant did not present any
solution at all; 1 = failure to acknowledge problem: either the mother or the child did not
acknowledge the identified issue as a problem for them; 2 = inappropriate solution: the
solution proposed either does not address the identified problem, is not a serious solution
(e.g., is offered in a humorous, flippant, or sarcastic manner), is exploitive, or is clearly
not achievable; 3 = restatement of the problem: the solution offered is merely a
restatement of the problem (though not verbatim) and does not provide any additional
information on how to solve the problem (e.g., 'you need to keep your room clean');
4 = elaboration of the problem: the discussion provides additional information about the
problem identified, but does not provide an achievable solution ('your room is messy
because you don't put your laundry away'); 5 = achievable and specific solution: the
solution is possible to carry out and provides specific information about how to execute
the solution (e.g., cites specific behaviors, such as 'you could put one toy away before
taking out another one'). Coders were trained to classify each participant's responses into
1 of these 6 categories such that the highest category response given was the one scored.
For example, a child who initially gave a flippant solution, but then generated an
achievable and specific one, would receive a solution score of 5. Reliability of agreement
for mothers' solution quality was 89% across coders and across both issues of conflict,
with K ranging from .74 to .95. Reliability of agreement for child's solution quality was
90%, with K ranging from .62 to .95. As previously stated, solution quality responses
were skewed toward higher level responses. Though there is a fairly wide range of values
for the kappas reported here, traditionally kappas do not function well as measures of
reliability, when there is not a lot of variability in the observed responses. Kappas,
however, were all within the range considered substantial or near perfect (Landis &
For the purposes of analysis, categorical responses were recorded. Solution quality
was divided into high- and low-level solutions: scores of 0-4 were grouped as low-level
solutions and a score of 5 as a high-level solution. Low-level solutions differed
qualitatively from high-level solutions in that they did not possess the characteristics of
being achievable and specific. Such solutions did not appear to provide a workable means
of solving the identified problem. High-level responses represented solutions that were
both achievable and specific. Both mother and daughter received a solution quality score
on each of 2 issues of conflict. A participant's 2 solution quality scores were then
combined to yield a sum score across both solutions, with a range of 0-2. Solution quality
was coded as missing when the participants skipped one of the 2 conflict issues (e.g.,
participants ended the discussion after discussing only one of the 2 issues presented, or
both participants declared the identified issue was not a problem for them). Calculations
employing imputed data using the series mean were performed as a way of handling
missing data. If 1 problem score was missing, that value was imputed and a sum score
was then calculated. If any of the participants had missing data across both of the conflict
issues selected for discussion, the participant was not included in the analysis.
Solution agreement scale. Solution agreement was scored for both issues of
conflict as a dichotomous variable (0 = no indication that both parties agree; 1 = verbal or
nonverbal agreement indicated). Solution agreement was characterized by both verbal
(e.g., "ok") and nonverbal behaviors (e.g., affirmative nod). A sum score across both
issues of conflict was created, ranging from 0 to 2. Reliability of agreement for this scale
was 88 %, with K ranging from .56 to 1.0.
Frequency and intensity of conflict. Each parent and child were provided with a
Conflict Issues Checklist (Hetherington & Clingempeel, 1992) and asked to mark which
of the conflicts they had previously engaged in together. The form consisted of 28 topics
(including 'other') about which parents and children often argue or disagree
(e.g., manners, school grades, keeping room tidy). They were asked to identify topics
(e.g., cleaning up, doing homework, allowance) on which they had disagreements. Child
and parent each indicated how heated, or intense, each conflict was. Each marked item
was scored on a 3-point scale in terms of intensity (0 = not heated, 1 = heated, 2 = very
heated). The heated variable was the mean of the heated scores for all the marked items.
Mother and child also indicated the frequency of each conflict (1 = monthly, 2 = weekly,
3 = daily). The frequency item was the sum of all the marked items. Mothers' scores
were analyzed separately from children's scores. These scores were analyzed in relation
to the quality of solutions generated during the videotaped discussion.
Mothers' behaviors. Six scales were used previously to code the videotaped
parent-adolescent interaction during the conflict-resolution task (Villaneuva Abraham,
Graber, & Brooks-Gunn, under review). In addition, the current study looked at an
additional scale measuring mothers' moralizing and lecturing behaviors.
Communication. The communication scale tapped the degree to which the
mother a) made herself clear by stating her own position clearly and concisely;
b) understood child's position; c) validated child by showing respect for or paraphrasing
child; and d) acknowledged child's viewpoint. Communication was scored on a 5-point
Likert-type scale ranging from 1 = not at all competent to 5 = highly competent.
Reliability of agreement was 94% for this scale, K = .92.
Listener responsiveness. The listener responsiveness scale measured the extent
to which the mother appeared to be attending to, showing an interest in, acknowledging,
and validating the child. Listener responsiveness was measured on a 5-point Likert-type
scale with responses ranging from 1 = not at all characteristic to 5 = highly characteristic.
Characteristic behaviors included making eye contact, nodding, and adjusting body
orientation toward the speaker. Other verbal behaviors included acknowledging, not
interrupting, validating, and conveying interest in what the other person verbalized.
Reliability of agreement for this scale was 100%, K = 1.0.
Dominance. The dominance scale measured the degree to which the mother
seemed to attempt to dominate, influence, or control the child and/or the situation
(1 = not at all characteristic to 5 = highly characteristic). Dominance can also be
indicated by an attempt to influence the behaviors, opinions, or points of view of another
person. Indicators include criticizing or interrupting the child, or changing or aborting the
subject of discussion. Reliability of agreement for this scale was 83%, K = .76.
Hostility/Aggression. The hostility/aggression scale measured intentional verbal,
nonverbal, and physical behavior that is potentially emotionally or physically harmful or
injurious to another individual. Indicators of hostility/aggression include hostile staring,
grimaces, snarls, smirks; hostile, sarcastic, dismissive, or irritable tone of voice; a raised
voice; defensive posture; and physical contact. Hostility/aggression was measured on a
5-point Likert-type scale (1 = not at all aggressive, 5 = highly aggressive). The reliability
score for this scale was 83% agreement, K = .74.
Assertiveness. The assertiveness scale measured the extent to which the mother
appeared to be acting in her own best interest, behaving openly and honestly, standing up
for herself, and exercising her own rights, while behaving thusly without denying the
rights of her child. Behavioral indices of assertiveness included speaking firmly, calmly,
composedly, decisively, and confidently, while making direct eye contact. Facial
expressions and body postures of seriousness, confidence, and directness (i.e., facing
other individual directly, standing straight) were also indicators of assertiveness.
Assertiveness was measured on a 5-point Likert-type scale (1 = not at all assertive,
5 = highly assertive). The reliability score for this scale was 100% agreement, K = 1.00.
Warmth. The warmth scale measured the degree to which the mother seemed to
be nice to, take an interest in, and enjoy being with her child. Warmth was scored as an
index of verbal (e.g., expressing nice and supportive statements) and nonverbal
communication (touching, kissing, displaying relaxed body postures, making eye
contact) as well as emotional expressions (smiling, nodding, laughing, appearing
happy). Warmth was measured on a 5-pont Likert-type scale from 1 = not at all
characteristic (virtually no examples of warmth and involvement with the child) to
5 = mainly characteristic (characterized as warm and involved). Reliability of agreement
was 94% for this scale, K = .93.
Lecturing and moralizing behaviors. The lecturing and moralizing scale
measured the degree to which a parent presents information in a manner that may be
preachy, intrusive, pushy, moralizing, critical, or judgmental. Behaviors included
speaking in a judgmental, critical, or rhetorical manner; interrupting child; and
monopolizing conversation. The item was scored across both issues of conflict. The
construct was measured on a 3-point Likert-type scale of 0 = not at all characteristic (did
not demonstrate any lecturing or moralizing behaviors), 1 = somewhat characteristic
(sometimes displayed lecturing or moralizing behaviors that are brief, infrequent, and of
low intensity), and 2 = mainly characteristic (usually displayed lecturing or moralizing
behaviors, which may be intense and prolonged). In order to receive a score of 2, the
mother must have engaged in behaviors that impeded the conversation. Reliability of
agreement for this scale was 93%, with K ranging from .79 to .86.
Family background characteristics. During the home visit, mothers completed
an interview in which information was obtained about family demographic
characteristics. The analyses controlled for demographic information about mothers'
education, family income, mothers' marital status, and child's race/ethnicity. Dummy
codes were used to categorize demographic data. Mothers' education was scored as either
1 (education beyond high school or GED) or 0 (high school diploma, GED, or less).
Race/ethnicity was categorized as 1 for White or as 0 for African-American or Latina.
Mothers' marital status was scored as 1 for married (including cohabiting couples) or 0
for all else (including not married, single, divorced, and widowed). Poverty level income
was determined from mothers' reports of family income and household size and then
compared to the national poverty threshold for 1996. Family income was collapsed into 3
categories: above poverty level, below poverty level, and missing. For family income, 2
dummy-coded variables were used, with the omitted group being below poverty level.
Missing data on family income accounted for 20% of the sample.
Descriptive statistics providing the means and standard deviations for family
background characteristics are reported in Table 1. Approximately 46% of girls were
white. While 64% of mothers had an education level beyond that of high school, 36%
completed high school, or had a GED. Nearly 54% of mothers were married. The
majority of families were above the poverty level, but 22% of families had incomes
below the poverty level, and 20.4% had missing information on income.
Table 1. Family background characteristics
Variable % n
White 46.2% 61
Black 37.1% 49
Latina 16.7% 22
Below poverty 22.0% 29
Above poverty 57.6% 76
Missing 20.4% 27
Beyond high school 63.6% 84
High school/GED or less 36.4% 48
Mothers' marital status
Married 53.8% 71
Living with someone 4.5% 06
Single 19.7% 26
Separated/divorced 18.9% 25
Widowed 3.0% 04
Preliminary analyses revealed strong associations (i.e., r ranging from .46 to .67)
among several of the mother behaviors scored in the interaction task (Table 2).
Lecture/moralize was significantly correlated with hostility, r = .51,p < .01, and with
dominance, r = .53, p < .01. Hence, ratings of mothers' behaviors were divided into two
composite groups consisting of mothers' positive and negative behaviors. Maternal
warmth, communication, and assertiveness were summed to yield mothers' positive
behaviors, with M= 13.49, SD = 3.06, and a = .85 (Table 3). Lecture/moralize was
significantly correlated with hostility, r = .01, p < .01, and dominance, r = .53, p < .01.
Maternal dominance, hostility, and lecturing and moralizing behavior were summed to
yield mothers' negative behaviors, with M = 4.08, SD = 2.34, and a = .75.
Table 2. Correlations among mothers' behavior
Variable 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1 Communication .67** .52** .66** -.21* -.17* -.18*
2 Listener responsiveness .66* .54* -.53* -.52 -.42**
3 Warmth .49** -.46** -.38** -.26**
4 Assertiveness -.28** -.09 -.20*
5 Hostility .61** .51**
6 Dominance .53**
8 M 3.68 3.67 2.98 3.17 1.36 2.39 .33
9 SD .79 .91 1.07 .91 .89 1.25 .61
* Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (2-tailed).
** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).
Table 3. Means and standard deviations of mothers' affective characteristics and
Mothers' affective characteristics
Mothers' positive behaviors 13.49 (3.06)
Mothers' negative behaviors 4.08 (2.34)
Mothers' solution quality 1.23 (0.74)
Child's solution quality .89 (0.75)
Solution agreement 1.30 (0.72)
The distribution of mothers' solution quality scores, ranging from 0-5, was
skewed toward the upper limit. Mothers' solution quality scores had the following
distribution: 1% of responses received a score of 0 for failure to generate a solution to
problem presented, 1% received a score of 1 for failure to acknowledge identified issue
as a problem, 4% received a score of 3 for mere restatement of problem, 34% received a
score of 4 for elaboration upon problem, and 60% received a score of 5 for generation of
an achievable and specific solution to problem. The distribution of child's solution
quality scores, ranging from 0-5, was also highly skewed toward higher scores: 6% of
responses received a score of 0 for failure to generate a solution to problem presented,
4% received a score of 1 for failure to acknowledge identified issue as a problem,
1% received a score of 2 for generation of an inappropriate solution, 5% received a score
of 3 for mere restatement of problem, 38% received a score of 4 for elaboration upon
problem, and 46% of responses received a score of 5 for generation of an achievable and
specific solution to problem.
When solution quality scores were collapsed into low- and high-level responses,
the scores were more evenly distributed. An achievable and specific solution was given a
score of 1, while all other solutions received a score of 0. The distribution of mother and
child's solution quality scores ranged from 0, representing low-level responses on both
issues discussed (e.g., inappropriate solution, elaboration upon problem), to a score of 2,
representing the generation of achievable and specific solutions to both issues discussed.
A score of 1 was given when an achievable and specific solution was generated for only
1 of the 2 issues discussed. Approximately 22% of mothers' solution quality responses
received a score of 0, 35% received a score of 1, and 43% received a score of 2.
Approximately 37% of child's solution quality responses received a score of 0, 34%
received a score of 1, and 29% received a score of 2. Nearly 18% of solution agreement
responses received a score of 0, 33.3% received a score of 1, and 49% received a score
of 2. Pearson chi-square tests were also conducted to test independence of outcome
variables. The tests provided support for the independence of mothers' and child's
solution quality scores, X2 (4, N=105) = 3.31, p = .51. The tests also provided support for
the independence of mothers' solution quality scores and solution agreement scores,
X2 (4, N=111) = 4.30, p = .37. The tests did not provide support for the independence of
child's solution quality and solution agreement, X2 (4, N =105) = 16.14, p = .003.
Preliminary analyses of mothers' behaviors during the conflict task yielded
correlations that were weak to moderate in size. Correlations among variables are
displayed in Table 4. A weak significant association was found between child's solution
quality and mothers' positive behaviors, r = .23, p < .01, as predicted by the first
hypothesis. Child's solution quality was also significantly correlated with solution
agreement, r = .29, p < .05. Mothers' solution quality, however, was not found to be
significantly associated with mothers' composite behaviors. Solution agreement was
found to be positively associated with mothers' positive behaviors, r = .20,p < .05, as
predicted, and was also found to be negatively associated with mothers' reports of
conflict frequency and intensity, r = -.27,p < .01 and r = -.26,p < .01, respectively.
Although both correlations were significant, their size indicated weak associations
(Landis & Koch, 1977). Mothers' negative behaviors were positively associated with
child and mothers' conflict frequency, r = .30,p < .01 and r = .21,p < .05, respectively.
Among predictor and outcome variables, the only significant correlations whose size
indicated a moderate association were the correlations among frequency and intensity of
conflict, ranging from .20 to .42, p < .05, and the correlation between mothers' positive
and negative behaviors, r = -.45, p < .01. Among covariates, the size of the correlations
that were significant indicated weak associations. The only significant moderate
associations were that of child's being white and mother being married, r = .46, p < .01;
and of being below poverty and mother being married, r = -.35,p < .01.
Table 4. Correlations among independent and dependent measures and covariates
Variable 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
1 Mothers' solution quality .05 .20* .09 .15 .07 .01 .16 -.04 .15 -.02 .03 -.06 -.08
2 Child's solution quality .29** .23** -.18* .01 -.18* .17 -.01 .13 .17 .19* -.07 -.15
3 Solution agreement .20* -.10 -.05 -.27** .05 -.26** .01 .17 .16 -.08 -.02
4 Mothers' positive behaviors -.45** -.22* -.21* -.17 -.25** .23** .24** .20* -.09- -.23**
5 Mothers' negative behaviors .19* .09 .30** .21* -.07 -.15 -.18* -.01 .06
6 Child's conflict intensity .20* .42** .21* -.01 -.14 -.14 .22** .14
7 Mothers' conflict intensity .23** .39** .02 -.07 -.20* -.02 .11
8 Child's conflict frequency .20* -.02 .01 .06 .05 .04
9 Mothers' conflict frequency .06 -.08 -.10 -.02 -.01
10 Mothers' education .13 .12 -.28** -.05
11 Child's race .46** -.24** -.13
12 Marital status -.35** -.10
13 Income: Below poverty -.27**
14 Income: Missing
* Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (2-tailed).
** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).
A series of hierarchical regression analyses were conducted to examine the effects
of mothers' behaviors, conflict frequency, and conflict intensity upon solution quality
and agreement, while controlling for the demographic variables of mothers' education,
marital status, child's race, and family income. Demographic information entered on step
1 included mothers' education, family income, mothers' marital status, and child's
race/ethnicity. A hierarchical regression model was run with the predictor of mothers'
composite positive behaviors (consisting of warmth, assertiveness, and communication)
entered in step 2. Separate hierarchical regression analyses were conducted using a
composite of mothers' negative behaviors (hostility, dominance, lecture/moralize) in
Predicting Solution Quality
The first model (as described above) examined mothers' positive behavior as a
predictor of mothers' solution quality, after accounting for covariates (Table 5). The
model was not significant for mothers' positive behaviors as a predictor of mothers'
solution quality, F (6, 125) = .75, p = .61. There was a trend for an association of
mothers' positive behaviors with child's solution quality, F (6, 125) = 2.04, p = .07 for
the overall model. In general, the evidence did not support the research hypothesis that
mothers' behaviors are predictive of solution quality. Hierarchical multiple regression
analyses were run with the same covariates entered on step 1 and with mothers' negative
behaviors entered in step 2 as a predictor of solution quality (Table 6). The model was
not significant for mothers' negative behaviors as a predictor of mothers' solution
quality, F (6, 125) = 1.30, p = .262. The overall relationship of mothers' negative
behaviors as a predictor of child's solution quality was not significant, F (6, 125) = 1.98,
p = .07, and total R2 = .09. The evidence did not support the research hypothesis that
mothers' behaviors are predictive of mothers' solution quality. The findings provided
some support for the hypotheses that higher rates of mothers' positive behaviors would
be associated with higher rates of child's solution quality, and that lower rates of
mothers' negative behaviors would be associated with lower rates of child's solution
Table 5. Hierarchical regression model examining mothers' positive behavior as a
predictor of solution quality and agreement, controlling for covariates
Mothers' solution Child's solution
quality quality Solution agreement
Mothers' education .19 (.14) .10 (.14) -.09 (.14)
Child's race/ethnicity -.11 (.15) .09 (.15) .14 (.14)
Marital status .02 (.15) .18 (.15) .11 (.15)
Below poverty -.10(.19) -.01 (.18) -.03 (.18)
Missing income -.15 (.18) -.18 (.18) .06 (.17)
A R2 .03 .07 .04
Mothers' positive behaviors .01 (.02) .04 (.02) .04 (.02)t
A R2 .01 .02 .03
Final R2 .04 .09 .07
Final model F (6, 125)= F (6, 125)= F (6, 125)=
F .75 2.04t 1.46
Note. Unstandardized coefficients and standard errors are shown.
Table 6. Hierarchical regression model examining mothers' negative behavior as a
predictor of solution quality and agreement, controlling for covariates
Mothers' solution Child's solution Solution
quality quality agreement
Mothers' education .22 ) .13 .13 (.14) -.05 (.14)
Child's race/ethnicity -.08 (.15) .10 (.15) .17 (.14)
Marital status .07 (.15) .16 (.16) .12 (.15)
Below poverty -.07 (.18) -.05 (.18) -.06 (.18)
Missing income -.17 (.17) -.24 (.17) -.01 (.17)
A R2 .03 .07 .03
Mothers' negative behaviors .05 (.03)t -.04 (.03) -.02 (.03)
A R2 .03t .02 .01
Final R2 .06 .09 .04
Final model F (6, 125)= F (6, 125)= F (6, 125)=
F 1.30 1.98' 0.91
Note. Unstandardized coefficients and standard errors are shown.
Hierarchical regression analyses were also run on the frequency and intensity of
conflict as predictors of solution quality. The predictors of conflict frequency as reported
by mother, conflict intensity as reported by mother, conflict frequency as reported by
child, and conflict intensity as reported by child were entered in step 2 of the model, and
the aforementioned covariates were entered in step 1. The overall model was not
significant for mothers' solution quality, F (9, 122) = 1.01, p = .44. However, the overall
model was significant for both mother and child's reports of frequency and intensity of
conflict as predictors of child's solution quality, F (9, 122) = 2.07, p = .04, and total R2 =
.13 (Table 7).
Table 7. Hierarchical regression model examining conflict frequency and intensity as
predictors of solution quality and agreement, controlling for covariates
Mothers' Child's Solution
solution quality solution quality agreement
Mothers' education .21 (.14) .14 (.14) -.02 (.13)
Child's race/ethnicity -.11 (.15) .12 (.15) .17 (.14)
Marital status -.01 (.16) .10 (.16) .01 (.15)
Below poverty -.17 (.19) -.08 (.19) -.12 (.18)
Missing income -.22 (.18) -.23 (.17) -.02 (.17)
A R2 .03 .07 .04
Child's report of conflict intensity .07 (.16) -.01 (.16) .02 (.15)
Mothers' report of conflict intensity .01 (.23) -.50 (.23)* -.49 (.22)*
Child's report of conflict frequency .01 (.01) .02 (.01)* .01 (.01)
Mothers' report of conflict
frequency -.01 (.01) .01 (.01) -.02 (.01)*
A R2 .04 .06t .10**
Final R2 .07 .13 .14
Final model F (9, 122)= F (9, 122)= F (9, 122)=
F 1.01 2.07* 2.24*
Note. Unstandardized coefficients and standard errors are shown.
tp< .10, tp <.10, *p <.05, **p <.01
There was a main effect for mothers' report of conflict intensity, t 122 = -2.20, p = .03, and
for child's report of conflict frequency, t 122 = 2.22, p = .03; however, the A in R2 for this
step was .06, p < .10. The current study predicted that higher rates of frequency and
intensity of conflict, as assessed by both mother and child, would be associated with
lower rates of mother and child's solution quality and solution agreement. Analyses
supported the expected results for some, but not all, of the indicators of conflict. The
findings provided support for the study's hypothesis that higher rates of conflict intensity,
as reported by the mother, would be associated with lower rates of child's solution
quality. However, higher rates of conflict frequency, as assessed by the child, were found
to be associated with higher rates of child's solution quality. The findings did not provide
support of an association between conflict frequency and intensity and mothers' solution
quality. Effect size was fairly small and varied from .03 to .07 for covariates and from
.04 to .11 for predictors.
Hierarchical multiple regression analyses were conducted for mothers' positive
behaviors as predictive of solution agreement, while controlling for covariates. The
overall model was not significant, F (6, 125) = 1.46, p = .06, and total R2 = .07 (Table 5).
Hierarchical regression analyses were also conducted for mothers' negative behaviors as
predictive of solution agreement, but the model was not significant, F (6, 125) = .91,
p = .49 (Table 6). Though the findings provided some support for the research hypothesis
that higher rates of mothers' positive behaviors would be associated with higher rates of
solution agreement, the analyses did not provide evidence for the hypothesis that
mothers' negative behaviors would be predictive of solution agreement. However,
mothers' solution quality and child's solution quality were found to be strong predictors
of solution agreement. The overall model was significant, F (7, 124) = 2.99, p = .006, and
total R2 = .15, with main effects for both mothers' solution quality, t 124 = 2.35, p = .021,
and child's solution quality, t 124 = 3.12, p = .002. The A in R2 for this step was .11,
p < .01, with 2 significant predictors. Though not a research hypothesis of the present
study, higher rates of agreement were found to be associated with higher rates of solution
quality (Table 8).
Table 8. Hierarchical regression analyses examining mother and daughter solution
quality as predictors of solution agreement, controlling for covariates
Mothers' education -.11 (.13)
Child's race/ethnicity .17 (.14)
Marital status .08 (.14)
Below poverty -.02 (.17)
Missing income .09 (.16)
Mothers' solution quality .19 (.08)*
Child's solution quality .26 (.08)**
Final R2 .15
Final model F (7, 124)=
Note. Unstandardized coefficients and standard errors are shown.
*p <.05, **p <.01
A hierarchical regression model was run with frequency and intensity of conflict,
as reported by both mother and child, as predictors of solution agreement (Table 7). The
overall model was significant, F (9, 122) = 2.24,p = .02, and total R2 = .14, with main
effects for maternal report of both conflict frequency and intensity, t 122 = -2.11, p = .04,
and t 122 = -2.24,p = .03, respectively. A significant negative association was found
between mothers' assessment of conflict frequency and intensity and arriving at an
agreed upon solution, as was predicted, with AR2 = .10, p < .01 for step 2 in the model.
That is, when mothers reported more conflict, the dyad was less likely to agree to a
solution in the discussion task.
Higher levels of family conflict have been found to be associated with poorer
outcomes in children (Dadds, Atkinson, Turner, Blums, & Lendich, 1999; Reuter &
Conger, 1995; Vandewater & Lansford, 1998). The primary purpose of the current study
was to examine the problem-solving process between mothers and daughters in an
attempt to better understand how specific parental behaviors impact successful resolution
of conflict. The present research provided some limited support for mothers' affective
and communicative behaviors being predictive of child's solution quality. Higher rates of
mothers' behaviors were not found to be associated with higher rates of solution
agreement, as was predicted. However, mother and child's solution quality were found to
be strong predictors of solution agreement. As expected, greater conflict intensity, as
reported by the mother, was found to be associated with poorer child solution quality.
Contrary to what was expected, greater conflict frequency, as reported by the child, was
found to be associated with better child solution quality. In addition, mothers' reports of
conflict frequency and intensity were found to be negatively associated with solution
agreement. The current investigation provided evidence that how often disagreements
occur, and how heated they become, is connected to the problem-solving process.
A family's ability to resolve conflict has been shown to have many positive
outcomes for children. Children of families that engage in effective conflict resolution
behaviors and in joint decision-making have been found to display lower levels of
internalizing problems, deviant behavior, and drug use; demonstrate higher levels of
academic achievement; and have better peer relations (Ashley, & Tomasello, 1998;
Brown, Mounts, Lamborn, & Steinberg, 1993; Coughlin, & Vuchinich, 1996; Dadds,
Atkinson, Turner, Blums, & Lendich, 1999; Dodge & Price, 1994). In contrast, families'
inability to resolve conflict has been found to be correlated with higher rates of verbal
and physical aggression in boys (Forgatch, 1989). However, few studies have looked at
conflict resolution between parents and children in the middle childhood period and in
the home setting.
The present research looked at specific affective and communicative parenting
behaviors, as well as reports of conflict in relation to how mothers and daughters resolve
conflict. Mothers' evaluation of how heated disagreements were with daughter was found
to be a significant predictor of child's solution quality. Specifically, higher rates of
conflict intensity, as assessed by mother, were associated with lower solution quality
scores for children. This provides evidence that conflict intensity has a negative impact
on conflict resolution. This is in keeping with research findings that parental anger and
hostility are associated with ineffective family problem solving (Conger, Ge, Elder, &
Lorenz, 1994; McCulloch, Gilbert, & Johnson, 1990). Contrary to what was predicted,
daughters' evaluation of how often arguments occur with their mothers was found to be
associated with higher solution quality scores for daughters. This may be due to
daughters having greater experience in debating with their mothers over issues that are
problematic to them. Research has found that conflict with mother and siblings may
influence children's social development (Dunn, Brown, Slomlowski, Tesla, &
Youngblade, 1991). Mother and siblings' use of perspective-taking in arguments was
found to be positively associated with child's use of compromise in resolving conflicts
with friends (Dunn & Herrera, 1997).
A significant negative association was found between mothers' assessment of
conflict frequency and intensity and arriving at an agreed upon solution, as was
predicted. This provides evidence that a family's ability to resolve conflict is hampered
by higher frequency and intensity of conflict. How often disagreements occur and how
heated they become appears to impact the problem-solving process. The results from this
study could serve as evidence that the more often families argue, and the more heated the
arguments become, the less likely family members are to reach agreement on a possible
However, solution quality was a significant predictor of solution agreement.
Higher quality solutions provide more information about the problem under discussion
and may offer a workable plan of action for resolving the problem. It is not surprising
that with higher quality solutions, agreement was more often reached. It may be that
mothers are unlikely to agree to low-level solutions offered by daughters, solutions that
are inappropriate, exploitive, unrelated to the problem at hand, or are merely a
restatement of the problem.
Parental expression of negative emotions, such as hostility and dominance, has
been found to be negatively associated with family problem-solving outcome (Forgatch,
1989). Parental warmth has been shown to be related to a variety of positive outcomes in
children, particularly among girls. The parenting behaviors of inhibiting negative feelings
and remaining focused on the problem-solving process have been found to be beneficial
in resolving differences (Forgatch, 1989). The present study examined mothers'
behaviors in relation to the quality of solutions generated during a discussion task and
whether agreement on a solution was reached. Mothers' affective and communicative
behaviors did not appear to impact solution quality, contrary to what was predicted.
There are several limitations to the present study. The sample was drawn from
urban New York areas, and so may not be representative of other urban, rural, or
suburban areas throughout the country. In addition, approximately 20% of the sample did
not provide information on income. Though this response rate is typical, and refusal to
report income was included in the analyses, it is not clear how the missing data may have
affected the findings. Effect size varied from .03 to .07 for covariates and from .003 to
.11 for predictors, with total R2 between .09 and .15. While not large, such effect sizes are
not unusual in psychosocial studies. The present study explored the effects of mothers'
behaviors on conflict resolution, but did not examine the impact of fathers' and of
children's behaviors on family conflict. Since the reactions and restrictions of both
parents impact family conflict, father-child interaction is a critical component of
understanding the ways in which families navigate conflict. Another limitation is that the
study utilized a structured discussion format of only 7 minutes in duration, as opposed to
naturalistic observation in the home, and so may fail to capture much of what might
occur in spontaneous conversation. The time constraint could have restricted the
discussion, resulting in a limited evaluation of the problem. Had more time been allotted,
participants might have explored and integrated other issues and solutions relevant to the
problem discussed, and possibly have arrived at better thought out, higher quality
solutions. A greater discussion time allotment could have resulted in the generation of
multiple high quality solutions, providing a range of potentially helpful solutions, which
could have facilitated children in producing high quality solutions. The structured format
of 4 guiding questions could have narrowed the discussion, discouraged exploration of
other important questions, and directed conversation toward a limited range of potential
solutions. A less directive approach, with greater discussion time provided, might have
captured more of what actually occurs in family discussion of contentious topics.
Future Directions and Implications
Since most studies of family conflict focus on early childhood and adolescence, it
is difficult to determine whether the changes occurring in family conflict during
adolescence have precursors in the middle childhood period. The current study speaks to
this gap in the literature by examining parent-child conflict before the entry into
adolescence. Alterations in the parent-child relationship across middle childhood and
adolescence may reflect small, gradual, incremental changes as opposed to large, major
disruptions occurring with the advent of the stormy teenage years. Of further interest is
research that looks at changes in family dynamics across age and gender. Specific
parenting behaviors could have a different impact at different stages of childhood. In
addition, certain behaviors on the part of children may be more useful in handling
conflict at certain developmental stages.
The issues over which parents and children disagree may also vary by age and
gender. Steinberg (1990) has suggested that there may be different developmental
themes, such as autonomy and independence, underlying the issues about which families
disagree. Smetana and Asquith (1994) proposed that there are changes across middle
childhood and adolescence in the interpretation of moral issues, with older children being
more likely to judge issues of morality and convention as being under one's own personal
jurisdiction. Such findings warrant further study of the types of issues over which
families disagree across childhood.
Also of interest is the association between mental health and family conflict. Are
parental affective characteristics and problem-solving behaviors associated with
internalizing problems in children? Are there specific communicative and problem-
solving behaviors on the part of children that are associated with better mental health in
children? The present study sought to provide information that could be relevant to
individuals working in a therapeutic or educational capacity with families. Though the
current study did not directly assess adjustment outcomes, prior studies have found that
parenting behaviors impact children's drug use, academic achievement, peer relations,
and negotiation of conflict. Future work could include an examination of conflict
resolution in relation to child outcome. A better understanding of the effects of parenting
behaviors can improve family relations and lead to healthier psychosocial functioning for
both parents and children.
The present research findings regarding conflict frequency and intensity are
relevant to people working with families. Individuals working with families should
perhaps refrain from minimizing the effects of family conflict, and from dismissing
family conflict in the preteen and teenage years as normative and harmless. The
frequency and intensity of conflict may serve as indices for family functioning. The
findings from this study could serve as evidence that the more often families argue, and
the more heated the arguments become, the less likely family members are to reach
agreement on a possible solution.
Many of the changes in family dynamics that take place in adolescence have
origins in early and middle childhood family relations. Research on mother-daughter
conflict-resolution can contribute to a better understanding of girl's development and of
parent-child relations. The present study identified some parenting behaviors beneficial
to discussing and resolving conflict with girls in middle childhood. Learning better ways
to communicate and interact with children at this developmental stage could help
families more effectively meet the changing needs of their children and better deal with
the upcoming challenges of adolescence.
GIRLS AND BOYS HEALTH AND DEVELOPMENT PROJECT
CONFLICT RESOLUTION CODEBOOK
Julia A. Graber, Ph.D.
February 01, 2005
This project was supported by grants from the National Institute of Child Health
and Human Development (NICHD; HD32376) and the National Institute of Mental
Health (NIMH; MH56557) as well as support from the Department of Psychology,
University of Florida.
The parent and child were separately presented a 28-item checklist of issues about
which parents and children often disagree. The parent and child each identified issues
that caused disagreement or conflict in their relationship. Two of the issues that the dyad
identified were selected for discussion.
The participants were provided with a list of 4 leading statements to be used for
guiding the discussion: "What is the problem "; "How does the problem begin "; "Who
becomes involved in the problem "; "What might be done to avoid this problem in the
future. The participants were then given 5-7 minutes for discussion of the 2 issues of
The discussion was videotaped. This manual focuses on coding the type of
problem discussed, solution quality, and parent's lecturing or moralizing behaviors. For
every videotaped parent-child interaction, codes were created for each of the 2 problems
discussed. The child-rearing issues list was used to code the type ofproblem discussed.
The list included 28 problematic issues, each of which was assigned an arbitrary code
(e.g., the problem of 'making too much noise at home' was coded '17'). A conflict
resolution scale was used to assess the solution quality of the series of solutions
generated by each participant. Solution quality was scored separately for parent and
child solutions and separately for each topic discussed. An additional scale was used to
code the degree of parent's lecturing or moralizing behaviors during the entirety of the
The codes for Solution Quality and Lecture/Moralize were adapted from the Iowa
Family Interactions Rating scales (Melby et al., 1998) by Nassau and Graber. Content of
the scales was adapted based on the protocol and responses of participants in the present
investigation as well as for conceptual reasons.
Topic of Problem
As indicated, participants were given 2 problems to discuss based on a standard
checklist of problems that commonly occur between parents and children or adolescents.
Participants may or may not discuss both of the problems given and sometimes discuss
other issues. Use the Child-Rearing Issues Form on the next page to code the nature of
the problem that is discussed for each of the two topics.
i. If participants acknowledge and discuss more than 2 topics, only code the first 2.
ii. If no topics were discussed, code this variable as "0" for both variables.
iii. If only one topic was discussed before the interaction ended, code the first topic
using the Child-Rearing Issues Form and code the second topic as "99."
Child-Rearing Issues Form
Problem # Description
2 Telephone calls
3 Behavior towards (step) brothers and sisters
4 Behavior towards mother
5 Behavior towards (other partner)
7 Getting up in the morning
8 Getting to school on time
9 Choice of reading material, music, art, etc.
10 T.V., how much he/she watches, which shows, etc.
11 Cursing or swearing
12 Personal appearance (choice of clothes, haircuts, etc.)
13 Household routines (bedtimes, meal times, regular times for chores,
14 Homework (completing, quality of, etc.)
15 School grades
16 Behavior at school
17 Making too much noise at home (talking too loudly, yelling, etc.)
18 Playing the radio, stereo, T.V. too loudly
19 Taking care of tapes/CDs, games, bikes, pets, etc.
20 How free time is spent
21 Curfew (coming home on time)
22 Letting you know where he/she is and what he/she is doing when away from
23 Keeping room tidy or clean
24 Bothering you and your spouse/significant other when you want to be alone
25 Bothering siblings when they want to be alone
26 Going to church, synagogue, mosque, etc.
27 Type of social activities that he/she is involved in (dances, movies, going to
28 Can you think of another area of disagreement that we did not talk about?
Solution Quality Scale
Conflict resolution is the process of generating one or more mutually agreeable
solutions. A solution is an answer to a problem. The process of coming to a mutually
agreeable solution may involve multiple component processes, including the restatement
of the problem (articulation of the problem in different words) and elaboration of the
problem (addition of information about the problem), as well as the development of one
or more solutions. Generating possible solutions can provide choices and can be helpful
in shaping an acceptable solution. This scale is used to assess solution quality. The
assessment of solution quality entails looking at elements of the conversation that lead to
a mutually agreeable solution. This scale is used to categorize the nature of the highest
quality solution. The following factors are important in determining solution quality:
* Restatement of the problem
Participants may restate the problem in different words but without providing any
additional information. Such restatements need not occur in the process of generating
a solution, but when they do occur, they may help direct the discussion toward a
solution. Restatement alone does not produce a solution. If the process of generating
a solution does not advance beyond a restatement of the problem, then the solution
produced (which is a restatement of the problem) represents low to intermediate
levels of overall solution quality.
* Elaboration of the problem
Participants may elaborate by providing additional information about the problem
rather than just restating the problem. Elaborating statements need not occur in the
process of generating a solution, but when they do occur, they may help direct the
discussion toward a solution. If the process of generating a solution does not advance
beyond elaboration, the discussion represents intermediate levels of overall solution
* Achievable and beneficial solution
An achievable solution is one that is capable of being accomplished or of being
performed successfully. Synonyms for achievable are attainable, feasible, realizable,
viable, possible, reachable, doable, practical, and workable. An achievable solution
represents a high level of solution quality. A beneficial solution is one that is
helpful, useful, valuable, advantageous, or of assistance. A proposed solution may or
may not be achievable. A proposed solution may or may not be potentially
beneficial. A potentially beneficial solution represents a high level of solution quality.
* Plan of action
A plan of action describes how to solve the problem. A plan of action includes both
a solution and an example specifying how to achieve that solution. A plan of action
always provides specific information (information that is detailed or explicit) about
particular behaviors required to bring about the desired solution. That is, solutions
that are specific are detailed and explicit. Even if a solution is achievable and
beneficial, the solution still may not possess enough specific information to be carried
out. A plan of action that is achievable and potentially beneficial represents a high
level of solution quality.
The score for solution quality is based on the participant's highest quality solution
among the series of solutions proposed during the entirety of the discussion. For
example, suppose we are scoring the quality of the solutions generated by the child for
problem 1. If the child generated 3 solutions over the course of the discussion of that
problem, only the highest quality solution is scored.
i. Occasionally, discussion proceeds to a third problem. Only score the first two
ii. If a parent or child builds onto or expands a solution, give credit for the whole series
of solutions when scoring solution quality.
The following describes the specific scores to be coded for each person in the
dyad for each problem discussed. In most cases, examples are provided for the
disagreement "keeping your room tidy."
Solution Quality Scores
0 = No Solution: This score is used when the participant did not propose a solution or
engage in any activities described in this scale.
"I don't know." (Statement is not a solution)
"Let's work on it." (Statement is not a solution)
1 = Failure to Acknowledge the Problem: In this situation, one participant failed to
acknowledge as a problem the issue identified for discussion, while the other
participant did acknowledge the identified issue as a problem.
"I do too keep my room clean," child counters. (Child does not acknowledge as a
problem the issue that was selected for discussion. Parent, however, does not
agree with child.)
"I don't think that's a problem. I don't think there's anything wrong with the way I
dress." (Child does not acknowledge as a problem the issue of personal
appearance. The parent, however, believes the child's attire is inappropriate.)
Note: Do not score as a '1' the discussion in which the participant has become
convinced of the legitimacy of the problem over the course of the discussion (e.g.,
when child first disagrees that room is a mess but later acknowledges the room is a
2 = Inappropriate Solution: A solution is proposed but the solution does not address the
problem identified. The solution may be exploitive or is not serious (i.e. solution is
offered in a flippant or sarcastic manner, or is not intended to be a serious solution).
Or, the solution proposed is clearly not achievable.
"Let's go to the moon!" (Solution is not achievable and does not address problem
"Maybe we'll win the lottery." (Solution does not address problem identified.)
"Let me have my own bedroom" or "Let's get a housekeeper" (Solution is not
achievable since solution may be financially prohibitive.)
"You can clean my room." (Solution is exploitive)
"The three other kids can share one bedroom and I'll get the other bedroom."
(Solution is exploitive.)
"I'd clean my room if you took me to the movies afterwards." (Solution is
Note: When considering whether a proposed solution is achievable, it is important to
keep in mind the background of the participants in the study. Do not assume that any
solutions are achievable that would be financially costly (e.g., move to another house;
get one's own room; hire a housekeeper).
3 = Restatement of the Problem: No solution is given but the participant provides a
restatement_of the problem. Or a solution is given that merely restates the other
participant's solution (i.e. no original solution is generated). Restatement is the
articulation of the problem in different words but without providing any additional
information. Restatement can be in the form of a declarative statement or a question.
For example, if the problem is "-L ipitg room tidy or clean, then a restatement is
"you need to clean your room" or "why don 't you keep your room clean?"
Restatement does not include reading the problem identified verbatim. This score is
also used when the participant asks a question that does not add any information
about the problem. As noted, solutions are coded under this category when the
solution expressed by the participant is just a restatement of the other person's
solution or the solution involves restating the problem with no additional information
on how this would be done ("I need to clean my room ").
"You should keep your room clean." (Solution is a restatement of problem)
"I shouldn't mess up my room." (Solution is a restatement of problem)
"I need to lower my voice." (Solution is a restatement of the problem of "being too
"I'll clean my room." (Child does not explain how this will be accomplished; the
solution is not specific; there is no plan of action.)
"I'll leave you alone when you ask for time to relax by yourself." (Child restates
4 = Elaboration upon the Problem: Discussion only elaborates upon the problem
without generating a solution. Elaboration can increase one's understanding of the
problem by providing additional information about the problem. Participants may
also elaborate on the problem by providing a leading statement or question that is
designed to elicit information about the problem or solution, such as "where do you
leave your clothes" or "your clothes belong in the.... Leading statements can
facilitate discussion and stimulate the process of generating solutions. Elaboration
can thereby serve as a helpful means of arriving at a solution, but does not of itself
yield a solution.
"You leave your toys and clothes lying around your room." (Parent elaborates by
providing information about the problem.)
"I don't put things away when I'm done using them." (Child elaborates upon
"What if I can't reach the toy shelf to put away my toys?";
"But then I could get in trouble if I defend my sister." (Child poses question designed
to elicit information about the tenability of mothers' solution.)
"And what else could you do to keep your room clean?" (Parent poses a leading
question to elicit a more detailed solution.)
5 = Achievable and Specific Solution: Solution is achievable, specific, and could be
beneficial. Solution includes a plan of action. The plan of action provides an
example of one or more specific activities that could be helpful to reaching the
solution proposed. Thus, the plan explains how to achieve the solution proposed.
"You could put one toy away before taking out another one."
"We could get a bin for you to put your dirty clothes into."
"You could go to bed early." (This solution to the problem of getting up in the
morning describes a specific action that could be beneficial in solving the
"You could clean the mess up right after you've made it."
"You could straighten your room each night before you watch TV."
"I could put away my toys before I go to bed."
"That's not a problem anymore. You now just tell your friends you can only talk on
the phone between 4 and 6 pm." (Both parent and child seem to feel the issue
identified for discussion is no longer a problem. However, they describe a
solution they had previously worked out to the problem identified, a solution that
describes a plan of action they used to solve the problem.)
Codes for Missing Data
99 = Skipped the Problem: BOTH parent and child failed to address (i.e. skipped) the
problem identified for discussion. BOTH parent and child failed to acknowledge the
problem identified for discussion as a problem for them. If the parent and child both
fail to acknowledge the issue identified as any longer a problem for them, but
describe how they had previously solved the problem, then rate the quality of the
solution described (see last example under 5).
"We don't have that problem anymore." (Both parent and child seem to feel the issue
identified for discussion is no longer a problem. No solution is discussed.)
"You don't talk on the phone too much," parent states while child nods in agreement.
(Both parent and child seem to feel the issue identified for discussion, namely
telephone calls, is no longer a problem.)
Note: A score of '99' must be scored in all 3 categories for that problem ('solution
generated by parent,' 'solution generated by child,' and 'solution agreed upon by parent
99 = Missing: Coder is unable to hear the taped discussion clearly or participants began
discussing issue, but then ran out of time.
Solution Agreement Scale
The discussion of each problem is also scored in terms of whether or not the
parent and child agreed to a solution. Over the course of the discussion of the problem,
several solutions may have been generated. In this case, focus on the final phase of the
discussion and determine if the parent and child agree to a solution. If one party initially
agrees to a solution but other solutions are presented and discussed, do not count this as
agreement. Use both verbal and nonverbal indications of agreement to the other person's
solutions. That is, the participant may say, "ok" or "I could do that," or may simply nod
in affirmation. The agreement need not appear sincere.
0 = No indication that both parties agree
1 = Verbal or non-verbal agreement indicated
This scale is used to measure the degree to which the parent presents information
in a manner that may be preachy, intrusive, pushy, or moralizing. Rather than discuss
issues, the parent may simply lecture the child or tell how things really are or should be.
The parent may speak in a way that appears to be rhetorical, critical, or judgmental. The
parent may scold or reprimand the child. The parent may interrupt the child or may not
give the child a chance to respond, initiate, or think independently. At lower levels of
lecturing or moralizing behaviors, a parent may provide short discourses on topics,
present maxims, and/or state truisms. A high score on the lecture/moralize scale
indicates that the parent engages in extended monologues concerning the way things
should or shouldn't be, tells how people should or shouldn't act, gives morality lessons
from his/her own experiences, and/or gives advice based on his/ her superior insight. A
parent may also receive a high score by exhibiting frequent brief examples of these
behaviors. At any scale level, the affective quality may be positive, negative, or neutral.
Only parents receive a score on this scale and scores are based on the discussion of both
topics of disagreement. Thus, one score is given to the entire interaction.
Examples of lecturing and moralizing behaviors:
"You should know better..."
"Don't you think it's about time you start doing..."
"When I was a kid..."
"You have to help me."
"It is important that kids get their homework done as soon as they come home
from school. Kids need to be more responsible for getting homework done on
their own. They shouldn't have to wait for their parents to remind them."
0 = Not at all Characteristic:
The parent does not demonstrate any lecturing or moralizing behaviors.
1 = Somewhat Characteristic:
The parent sometimes displays lecturing or moralizing behaviors at a low to
moderate level. These behaviors are brief, infrequent, and of low intensity.
These behaviors do not appear to impede the conversation. These behaviors,
though they may be annoying or wearisome to others, do not appear to make it
difficult for others to express their views.
2 = Mainly Characteristic:
The parent usually displays lecturing or moralizing behaviors. These behaviors
occur throughout most of the conversation, and may become extended and
unrelenting. Such behaviors may be more intense and prolonged. The parent
may be more intrusive and may lecture or moralize to the point of making it
difficult for others to express their views. The parent tends to monopolize the
conversation and seldom gives the child a chance to respond. Two-way
communication may be actively inhibited.
Clarifications of Lecturing and Moralizing Behaviors:
i. Lecturing and moralizing behaviors often include verbal interruptions by the
parent, especially interruptions that are overwhelming, complaining in nature, or
that do not allow the others to think for themselves. Interruptions are likely to
indicate lecturing or moralizing if they reduce, rather than increase, discussion in
ii. Interrupting behavior followed by "should" or "ought" statements, even though
not negative in emotional affect, may indicate lecturing or moralizing.
iii. Lecturing or moralizing parental behavior often conveys beliefs and opinions in a
lecturing, annoying manner, but also can be delivered more neutrally or even
iv. Parents can turn an interaction into a soap-box lecture by telling the child all
he/she does wrong or should be doing (e.g., "you always/never...") or by
extolling the virtues of getting good grades or how life for the parent was as a
v. Lecturing or moralizing to the camera is considered lecturing or moralizing to the
vi. Score Lecture/Moralize if the parent uses preachy "should/ought" statements,
even if these are short. Such statements convey the sense that "I'm the expert; let
me tell you how things really work," or "I'm telling you this for your own good."
They close off, rather than invite, dialogue.
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Gillian Nassau received a Bachelor of Arts degree from St. John's College in
Annapolis, MD. She received a Master of Social Work degree from Florida State
University. She worked as a freelance editor while pursuing graduate studies. Her areas
of interest are social policy, social development, family conflict, and parent education.