Can teaching conflict resolution help reduce the development of unproductive ways of dealing with conflict and result in fewer negative youth outcomes? In this intervention project, families are randomly assigned either to a parent-only treatment group, a parent and adolescent treatment group, a self-study control group, or a no treatment control group. Intervention groups meet for four treatment and two booster sessions. Pre-, post-, six-month, and one-year follow-up assessments are planned. Outcomes to be measured include constructive and destructive conflict and communication, emotional security, and academic performance. These are being assessed using parent, youth, and teacher questionnaires, laboratory observations of couple and triadic conflict, diary reports, interviews, and school records. The study initially included 150 volunteer families with an adolescent between the ages of 12 and 16 from northwest Indiana and southwest Michigan. In 2010, the investigators were granted a supplemental award that allowed them to increase their sample size to 225, giving them sufficient power to evaluate more complex intervention effects, including mediators and moderators of program impact. Data collection has been completed for pre- and post-intervention assessments and is ongoing for follow-up assessments. Preliminary findings support the program’s efficacy. Compared to control groups, parents and adolescents in the treatment groups all reported increased knowledge about constructive conflict. Treatment participants also handled family-wide conflicts more constructively based on questionnaires and laboratory observations of couple and triadic conflicts when compared to control participants. Including adolescents was associated with improved parenting and parent-adolescent relationships and adolescents’ greater emotional security about inter-parental conflict. Adolescents receiving the psycho-educational curriculum also reported more secure attachments to both their mothers and fathers. Analyses of diary reports highlight relationship adjustment as a factor in improvement over the course of the program. Parents who entered the program satisfied with their couple relationship demonstrated stronger signs of improved conflict resolution over the course of the program. Completion of follow-ups will allow investigators to address important questions such as: Is the intervention successful because it impacts the adolescents’ emotional security? Are the effects of the intervention reciprocal between family members? Are the effects of the intervention durable?
Can teaching conflict resolution help reduce the development of unproductive ways of dealing with conflict and result in fewer negative youth outcomes?