Linking Differentiation with Parents, Communication Skills, and Dyadic Adjustment with Young Adult Couples

Date of Completion

January 2011


Psychology, Social|Speech Communication|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies




In this study a moderated mediation model tests the relationship between differentiation in one's family of origin, communication processes, stress, and dyadic adjustment of young adults in romantic relationships. Murray Bowen's (1978) construct of differentiation, in which a person balances both closeness and individuality in relationships, has been linked to relationship skills such as interpersonal competence in young adults and adjustment in long term marriages. Bowen theory suggests that a well-differentiated person will relate and communicate in ways that enhance relationships. Such skills include conveying understanding of others' points of view, suppressing verbal hostility, engaging in less conflict, and being able to communicate feelings of closeness. Individuals who are less well-differentiated are thought to have greater difficulty in these areas (Bowen, 1978). The differences between communication of individuals who are well-differentiated and those that are not are thought to be exacerbated during times of stress (Bowen, 1978). However, these communication processes are a neglected but significant link between differentiation that is developed in the family of origin and dyadic adjustment in one's current romantic relationship. ^ Thus this study examined whether specific communication processes mediate the relationship between differentiation and dyadic adjustment. Further, it is assumed that this mediation is moderated by perceptions of current stress level. Most young adults are in a stage of both increasing individuation and developing intimate dyadic relationships, making it an excellent period for the study of differentiation, communication, and dyadic adjustment. Partial support was found for the influence of differentiation on communication processes and for stress as a moderator. ^