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Journal of Family Psychology - Vol 31, Iss 3

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Journal of Family Psychology The Journal of Family Psychology is devoted to the study of the family system from multiple perspectives and to the application of psychological methods of inquiry to that end.
Copyright 2017 American Psychological Association
  • Family psychology: Past and future reflections on the field.
    Prominent issues in the field of family psychology during my term as editor (1998–2003) of this journal were briefly noted, including a focus on marital issues, divorce, remarriage and family conflict. Parenting, attachment and parent-child relationships were also significant topics in this period. Special sections of the journal focused on cultural variations, families and the law, families and religion, and family routines and rituals. Several neglected issues that need more attention in the future were noted. These include the need to recognize the embeddedness of families in socioecological contexts, the importance of monitoring the impact of secular changes on families, and the value and limitations of viewing family psychology as a separate field. Other topics for a future agenda include the challenge of defining “family” in the midst of changing family forms, the effects of technological change on families, and the challenges of integrating biological research into the family psychology agenda. A multilevel bio-social approach to family research was recommended. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Like mother, like child: Offspring marital timing desires and maternal marriage timing and stability.
    Understanding the determinants of marital timing is critical because it has implications for marital functioning and divorce. One salient predictor of marital timing is youth’s desires for marriage timing. To shine light on predictors of both desires for marital timing and the timing of marriage itself, we examine offspring marital desires and maternal marriage characteristics in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1979 (NLSY79) cohort and 1979 Child and Young Adult cohort (NLSY79-CYA; biological offspring of the women in the 1979 cohort). Analyses showed that maternal cohabitation postdivorce predicted decreased expectations to ever marry in offspring. Maternal age at marriage was positively associated with offspring desires for age at marriage, but only for those whose mothers had not divorced. Maternal marital age was significantly associated with the offspring’s transition into marriage even when controlling for the offspring’s desires for marriage timing, but neither maternal marriage age nor offspring desires for marital timing were associated with the timing of entrance into cohabitation, whereas maternal divorce was associated with earlier cohabitation. Our findings suggest that maternal marriage characteristics, particularly divorce, are significant predictors of millennials’ desires for and experiences with romantic relationships. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Dyadic effects of resilience on well-being in Chinese older couples: Mediating role of spousal support.
    Concerning the interdependence of married couples, the strengths of not only actors but also of partners might improve aging successfully. This study aimed to examine the actor and partner effects of resilience on well-being in Chinese older couples and the potential mediating role of spousal exchanges at the actor and partner levels. Using a 2-wave longitudinal design, a total of 158 Chinese couples (age range 60–97 years) completed measures of resilience, perceived spousal exchanges (spousal support and negative exchanges), and well-being. The results showed that (a) the dyad had significant congruence in resilience and well-being, respectively; (b) resilience had significant actor and partner effects on well-being within the dyad; and (c) negative spousal exchanges could not mediate the actor and partner effects of resilience on well-being, and a gender difference emerged for the mediation role of spousal support: Actor and partner effects of husbands’ resilience on well-being were mediated by both partners’ perceived spousal support, whereas the actor and partner effects of wives’ resilience on well-being were not mediated by perceived spousal support. Focusing on couples’ interdependence, this study highlighted the role of spousal resilience and support on successful aging. Interventions should focus on enhancing both partners’ resilience and promoting mutual support within the couple. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Relational aggression and marital quality: A five-year longitudinal study.
    Relational aggression occurs in many different contexts, including in romantic relationships. The current study examined associations between two subtypes of relational aggression (love withdrawal and social sabotage) and marital quality over a 5-year time period. Participants consisted of 311 married couples who completed a number of questionnaires on relational aggression and relationship quality once a year over a 5-year period. Results revealed that relational aggression was highly stable over time and that women used more relational aggression than men. Men’s use of social sabotage and love withdrawal were bidirectionally related to both partners’ perceptions of poor marital quality over time. Conversely, only women’s use of love withdrawal was related to her own perceptions of poor marital quality over time. Collectively, these results suggest that relational aggression by men may be less common, though particularly toxic in a marital relationship. Couples are encouraged to find healthier ways of coping with problems in relationships. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Marital, parental, and whole-family predictors of toddlers’ emotion regulation: The role of parental emotional withdrawal.
    The present study aims to address how dyadic and triadic family interactions across the transition to parenthood contribute to the later development of toddlers’ adaptive emotion regulation using structural equation modeling methods. Specifically, we examined the interrelations of observed marital negative affect before childbirth, parents’ emotional withdrawal during parent–infant interactions at 8 months, and coparenting conflict at 24 months as predictors of toddlers’ adaptive emotion regulation at 24 months. Data for the present study were drawn from a longitudinal dataset in which 125 families were observed across the transition to parenthood. Results suggested that prenatal marital negativity predicted mothers’ and fathers’ emotional withdrawal toward their infants at 8 months postbirth as well as coparenting conflict at 24 months postbirth. Coparenting conflict and father–infant emotional withdrawal were negatively associated with toddlers’ adaptive emotion regulation; however, mother–infant emotional withdrawal was not related. The implications of our study extend family systems research to demonstrate how multiple levels of detrimental family functioning over the first 2 years of parenthood influence toddlers’ emotion regulation and highlight the importance of fathers’ emotional involvement with their infants. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Disorder-specific patterns of emotion coregulation in couples: Comparing obsessive compulsive disorder and anorexia nervosa.
    Impaired emotion regulation and maladaptive strategies to manage distress are central to psychopathology, including obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and anorexia nervosa (AN). Emotion regulation can be fostered or thwarted by romantic partners, and the tendency to rely on interpersonally oriented emotion regulation may vary by disorder. This study examined coregulation as a form of interpersonal emotion regulation in OCD and AN. We hypothesized that OCD is associated with exaggerated and AN with diminished coregulation, and that OCD patients have greater overall levels of emotional arousal than AN patients. Greater symptom severity was expected to exacerbate these opposing tendencies. Vocally encoded emotional arousal was measured during couple conversations in 34 AN patients, 18 OCD patients, and their partners. Two indicators of coregulation (covariation and coupling) were analyzed using cross-lagged actor–partner interdependence and coupled linear oscillator models. As hypothesized, OCD was associated with greater overall emotional arousal than AN. Symptom severity was not associated with emotional arousal or coregulation. Covariation differed in the opposite direction of the hypothesis; there was no difference in coupling. AN patients exhibited consistent coregulation, indicating high reactivity to partners‘ emotional arousal which may contribute to interpersonal avoidance. OCD couples showed limited predictability of patients’ arousal over time, while partners were affected by the patients’ emotional arousal; thus, symptom accommodation may in part be partners’ attempts at managing their own distress along with the patients’. A better understanding of interpersonal emotion regulation in OCD and AN can inform treatment by targeting interaction patterns that may maintain symptoms. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • From early family systems to internalizing symptoms: The role of emotion regulation and peer relations.
    Research has demonstrated the importance of early family characteristics, such as the quality of caregiving, on children’s later mental health. Information is, however, needed about the role of more holistic family systems and specific child-related socioemotional mechanisms. In this study, we conceptualize families as dynamic family system types, consisting of both marital and parenting trajectories over the transition to parenthood. First, we examine how early family system types predict children’s anxiety, depression, peer exclusion, and emotion regulation. Second, we test whether couples’ infertility history and other family related contextual factors moderate the effects of family system types on child outcomes. Third, we test whether children’s emotion regulation and peer exclusion mediate the effects of family system types on anxiety and depression. The participants were 452 families representing cohesive, distant, authoritative, enmeshed, and discrepant family types, identified on the basis of relationship autonomy and intimacy from pregnancy to the child’s age of 2 and 12 months. Children’s anxiety, depression, emotion regulation, and peer exclusion were assessed at the age of 7–8 years. Structural equation modeling showed that distant, enmeshed, and discrepant families similarly predicted children’s heightened anxiety and depression. Infertility history, parental education, and parity moderated the associations between certain family system types and child outcomes. Finally, emotion regulation, but not peer exclusion, was a common mediating mechanism between distant and enmeshed families and children’s depression. The results emphasize the importance of early family environments on children’s emotion regulation development and internalizing psychopathology. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Developmental delay and emotion dysregulation: Predicting parent–child conflict across early to middle childhood.
    Cumulative risk research has increased understanding of how multiple risk factors impact various socioemotional and interpersonal outcomes across the life span. However, little is known about risk factors for parent–child conflict early in development, where identifying predictors of change could be highly salient for intervention. Given their established association with parent–child conflict, child developmental delay (DD) and emotion dysregulation were examined as predictors of change in conflict across early to middle childhood (ages 3 to 7 years). Participants (n = 211) were part of a longitudinal study examining the development of psychopathology in children with or without DD. Level of parent–child conflict was derived from naturalistic home observations, whereas child dysregulation was measured using an adapted CBCL-Emotion Dysregulation Index. PROCESS was used to examine the conditional interactive effects of delay status (typically developing, DD) and dysregulation on change in conflict from child ages 3 to 5 and 5 to 7 years. Across both of these timeframes, parent–child conflict increased only for families of children with both DD and high dysregulation, providing support for an interactive risk model of parent–child conflict. Findings are considered in the context of developmental transitions, and implications for intervention are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Decision-making style and response to parental involvement in brief interventions for adolescent substance use.
    Adolescent decision making has been previously identified as risk factor for substance abuse as well as a proximal intervention target. The study sought to extend this research by evaluating the role of decision-making style in response to parent involvement in brief substance abuse interventions. Adolescents (aged 12 to 18 years; n = 259) identified in a school setting as abusing alcohol and marijuana were randomly assigned to complete 1 of 2 brief interventions (BIs), either a 2-session adolescent-only program (BI-A) or the 2-session adolescent program with an additional parent session (BI-AP). Interventions were manualized and delivered in a school setting by trained counselors. Adolescent decision-making style was evaluated at intake, and alcohol and marijuana use were evaluated at intake and at a 6-month follow-up assessment. Supporting past research with these interventions, BI-AP demonstrated overall stronger outcomes for marijuana when compared with BI-A. Across both intervention models, an adaptive decision-making style (i.e., constructive, rational) assessed at intake predicted greater reductions in marijuana use. A significant moderation effect emerged for alcohol outcomes. Adolescents with maladaptive decision-making tendencies (i.e., impulsive/careless, avoidant) demonstrated the largest benefit from the parental involvement in BI-AP, whereas those with a less impulsive style derived little additional benefit from parental involvement in regard to alcohol use outcomes. Implications for the tailoring of brief interventions for adolescent substance abuse are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Couple relationship education: A randomized controlled trial of professional contact and self-directed tools.
    The aim of this randomized controlled trial was to examine the efficacy of an evidence-based relationship distress prevention program, the Couples Coping Enhancement Training (CCET), in dual well-earning couples and to investigate whether effects vary by (a) hours of professional contact and (b) mode of delivery (face to face vs. self-learning DVD). N = 159 couples were randomly assigned to 1 of 4 intervention conditions: (1) standard CCET (15 hours face to face), (2) compact CCET (12 hr face to face), (3) short CCET (self-learning DVD + 8 hr face to face), or (4) wait-list control group. Relationship satisfaction and dyadic coping skills were assessed by means of questionnaires completed prior to and 2 weeks after completion of the treatment, at 3-month follow-up, and at 6-month follow-up. Baseline latent change models for 2 factors showed that the CCET enhanced relationship satisfaction and dyadic coping skills in couples relative to the wait-list control group, albeit effects were small. The standard format of the CCET was not more effective than the compact or the short format indicating that reduced amount of professional contact did not decrease the treatment’s efficacy and that the self-learning DVD successfully replaced the psycho-educational part of the program. Since dual earner couples usually face multiple stressors, it is a promising finding that they can strengthen their relationship with a relatively short time investment. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Members’ attendance rates and outcomes of relationship education groups: A consensus-dispersion analysis.
    Relationship education programs (REPs) are an effective way to enhance relationship communication, prevent relational distress, and increase relationship quality. Most REPs are delivered in a group format; however, there is little known about the influence of group processes on outcomes for these programs, such as group members’ attendance. Therefore, the current study applied a dispersion-consensus model to test the impact of attendance at the member and group levels on group members’ REP outcomes. In a sample of 558 lower income, primarily African American participants, we examined whether individual and group attendance rates influenced posttreatment communication patterns and relationship quality. Results indicated that an individual group member’s attendance was significantly and positively related to their posttreatment relationship quality, although this relationship is complex. Specifically, this relationship was stronger in groups with higher levels of attendance as well as groups with more attendance variability. In addition, results indicated that group members reported better posttreatment relationship quality in groups with less variability in members’ attendance. However, we found a significant interaction between attendance consensus and variability, and an individual group member’s posttreatment relationship quality, suggesting that group members report higher levels of relationship quality in groups where the attendance of the group as a whole is lower yet more consistent. No significant relationships were found for group member’s posttreatment communication patterns. Our findings suggest that the rate and variability in the group’s attendance, as well as an individual group member’s own attendance significantly impacts their posttreatment relationship quality in complex ways. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Dyadic coping and salivary interleukin-6 responses to interpersonal stress.
    Dysregulated immune responses to stress are a potential pathway linking close relationship processes to health, and couples’ abilities to cope with stress together (dyadic coping) likely impact such immune responses. Most stress research has focused on immune reactivity, whereas knowledge of immune recovery remains limited. The present study examined how acute interpersonal stress affects immune reactivity and recovery, as well as whether dyadic coping moderates these effects. Healthy couples (N = 24) completed the Dyadic Coping Inventory and provided saliva samples 4 times each day for 5 days, including 2 days before a laboratory dyadic stressor (discussing an area of disagreement), the day of, and 2 days after. Four additional saliva samples were taken throughout the laboratory stressor. Saliva samples were assayed for interleukin (IL)-6. Multilevel models that adjusted for demographic and health variables indicated that partners low in dyadic coping showed immune reactivity to the stressor whereas partners high in dyadic coping did not. Dyadic coping did not moderate immune recovery, which had occurred by 5 hr poststressor across all participants. Results suggest that partners low in dyadic coping show increased reactivity of immune responses to interpersonal stress. Enhancing dyadic coping in couples may impact not only their mental health and relationship quality, but also their risk of stress-related immune disorders. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Self-reported parenting style is associated with children’s inflammation and immune activation.
    Family environments and parenting have been associated with inflammation and immune activation in children and adolescents; however, it remains unclear which specific aspects of parenting drive this association. In this study, we cross-sectionally examined the association between 5 discrete parenting styles and inflammation and immune activation in late childhood. Data were drawn from 102 families (55 with female children, mean age 9.50 years, SD = 0.34) participating in the Imaging Brain Development in the Childhood to Adolescence Transition Study. Children provided saliva samples from which inflammation (C-reactive protein) and immune competence/activation (secretory immunoglobulin A) were measured. Parents completed the Alabama Parenting Questionnaire, which measures 5 aspects of parenting style—positive parental involvement, positive disciplinary techniques, consistency in disciplinary techniques, corporal punishment, and monitoring and supervision. Results showed that higher scores on the poor parental monitoring scale were associated with higher levels of both inflammation and immune activation in children. This study highlights parental monitoring and supervision as a specific aspect of parenting behavior that may be important for children’s physical and mental health. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Randomized control trial follow-up: Online program and waiting period for unmarried parents in Title IV-D Court.
    Despite a lack of research on parent programs for separating unmarried parents, many judicial officers mandate participation. Rudd, Holtzworth-Munroe, Reyome, Applegate, and D’Onofrio (2015) conducted the only randomized controlled trial of any online parent program for separating parents, ProudToParent.org (PTP), and related court processes (e.g., having a waiting period between the establishment of paternity and the court hearing regarding child related issues vs. having the hearing the same day). They recruited a unique sample of 182 cases in a Title IV-D Court (i.e., a court for primarily low income parents) (Authorization of Appropriations, 42 U.S.C. § 651, 2013), in which paternity was previously contested but subsequently established via court-ordered genetic testing. Unexpectedly, cases assigned to PTP and a waiting period were the least likely to reach agreement at their court hearing. In the current study, we extend these results to examine the impact of the study conditions on relitigation in the year following the court hearing; only 11.2% of cases filed a motion, and 7.8% had a hearing. The group that was least likely to reach full initial agreement (i.e., assigned to PTP and the waiting period) were the most likely to relitigate. Further, controlling for study conditions, reaching a full agreement in the Title IV-D court decreased the odds of having a court hearing in the following year. Reaching agreements on the specific issues involved in such cases (e.g., custody, child support) reduced the likelihood of both motions and hearings in the year after the Title IV-D hearings. The implications of these findings are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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