Parental emotion and control: A model of reciprocal influence in the family system

Date of Completion

January 2006


Psychology, Social|Social Work|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies




This dissertation proposes and tests a model of reciprocal influence in the family system. The model, which is based on attachment theory, details mechanisms of reciprocal influence in family systems. Specifically, the model suggest that parental fear, shame, and anger, precipitated by a lack of interactional synchrony in the parent-child relationship, motivate the parent to exhibit behavioral responses which can negatively influence the emotional socialization of their children. Self report surveys were completed by the biological and/or non-biological parents of 234 target children drawn from families classified as high and/or low functioning. Results indicate significant differences in level of target variables across 4 groups (high functioning bio, low functioning bio, high functioning non-bio, low functioning non-bio). Specifically, non-biological parents reported more fear, shame and anger than their biological counterparts. They also reported lower levels of co-operation from their children, as well as more negative expression and less positive expression in their families. Structural Equation Modeling techniques were utilized to develop and test two non-recursive models of reciprocal influence. Analyses of these models suggest the existence of universal family processes, consistent with Attachment Theory, that organize and motivate functioning in both biological and non-biological families. ^