We observed gendered coping strategies and conflict resolution outcomes used by adolescents and parents during a conflict discussion task to evaluate associations with current and later adolescent psychopathology. We studied 137 middle- to upper-middle-class, predominantly Caucasian families of adolescents (aged 11-16 years, 65 males) who represented a range of psychological functioning, including normative, subclinical, and clinical levels of problems. Adolescent coping strategies played key roles both in the extent to which parent-adolescent dyads resolved conflict and in the trajectory of psychopathology symptom severity over a 2-year period. Gender-prototypic adaptive coping strategies were observed in parents but not youth, (i.e., more problem solving by fathers than mothers and more regulated emotion-focused coping by mothers than fathers). Youth-mother dyads more often achieved full resolution of conflict than youth-father dyads. There were generally not bidirectional effects among youth and parents' coping across the discussion except boys' initial use of angry/hostile coping predicted fathers' angry/hostile coping. The child was more influential than the parent on conflict resolution. This extended to exacerbation/alleviation of psychopathology over 2 years: higher conflict resolution mediated the association of adolescents' use of problem-focused coping with decreases in symptom severity over time. Lower conflict resolution mediated the association of adolescents' use of angry/hostile emotion coping with increases in symptom severity over time. Implications of findings are considered within a broadened context of the nature of coping and conflict resolution in youth-parent interactions, as well as on how these processes impact youth well-being and dysfunction over time.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Manuscript preparation was supported in part by Grant T32DA016184 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health.