Title

The relationship between family system dynamics and adjustment in a sample of late adolescents

Date of Completion

January 1993

Keywords

Psychology, Developmental|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies

Degree

Ph.D.

Abstract

A fundamental assumption underlying this research is that in order for adolescents to attend to the developmental tasks associated with this period, and to become well-adjusted, adults with the capacity for intimate relationships, they must achieve an age appropriate balance between separateness and connectedness within the family context. Additionally, the adolescent's achievement of these developmental tasks is related to the family's ability to regulate interpersonal distances. Finally, the anticipated developmental outcomes during adolescence include social competence and the ability to assume adult social roles. Mature social functioning and the willingness to assume responsibilities in the larger social system reflect increasing levels of psychosocial maturity in the adolescent.^ The present research examines the degree to which family system dynamics mediate the emergence of developmental maturity in a sample of late adolescents. Within this study, psychosocial maturity and emotional independence are assessed as indicators of developmental maturity. The family's tolerance for individuality, intimacy, and interpersonal differences are assessed as indicators of system differentiation. Furthermore, these indicators of differentiation processes within the marital and parent/child relationships are examined as predictors of developmental maturity. Finally, gender differences as they pertain to the relationship between family system dynamics and developmental maturity are explored.^ The data supported the hypotheses that adolescents in well differentiated family systems would be characterized by higher levels of psychosocial maturity and emotional independence than adolescents in poorly differentiated systems. The findings also revealed gender differences with regard to reported levels of psychosocial maturity and emotional independence. Even in highly differentiated family relationships males' adjustment remains lower than females in poorly differentiated systems. The emotional independence of females, even in highly differentiated family systems, remains lower than males from poorly differentiated systems. These findings underscore gender differences with respect to developmental processes and the experience of interpersonal family life. ^