Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

John P. Hill


Past research has suggested that temporary perturbations characterize parent-adolescent relations after the onset of pubertal change. The purpose of this study was to further delineate the characteristics of these disruptions in families with seventh-grade girls. Current operational definitions of family conflict in an observational context are inadequate and a potentially more useful definition was offered: conflict is believed to exist when there is the simultaneous occurrence of opposing interpersonal forces.

Two studies were conducted. A validation study was done to determine the psychosocial correlates of the following conflict variables: frequencies and reciprocal dyadic sequences of interruptions and disagreements. The affective nature of these variables was also assessed. The sample consisted of 17 families with seventh-grade girls and 20 families with seventh-grade boys who filled out questionnaires and participated in the Structured Family Interaction Task (SFIT). 2-scores were computed to represent the sequential variables.

Results revealed that interruptions and disagreements tap disruption and conflict in the family in certain contexts. Frequencies of interruptions tap power in the family, whereas frequencies and sequences of disagreements tap both conflict and power. When interruptions and positive affect co-occurred more frequently, there was less disruption and conflict within the family system.

The second study (Study 2) was conducted on 111 families with seventh-grade girls who participated in the SFIT. Relations between the observational measures and menarcheal status were assessed. The results supported the notion that familial adaptation to menarche involves a temporary period of conflict and withdrawl of positive affect in family relationships, especially in the mother-daughter dyad.

Although a number of researchers in this area have found similar results, explanations of the role of conflict in the process have not been forthcoming. It is argued here that conflict plays a role in the adaptation to pubertal change in the sense that it promotes adjustment to developmental change. There appear to be two processes--one intrapsychic and the other extrapsychic--that allow conflict to play this role and make moderate levels of conflict inevitable in healthy families.


Scanned, with permission from the author, from the original print version, which resides in University Archives.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission