Identifying temporal linkage in tetradic family interactions
Greene, Shannon M.
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Previous research on marital dyadic interaction indicates that contingency in expression of negativity distinguishes distressed from nondistressed relationships. This study comprised an extension of this previous work to the interactions of eight groups of family tetrads (N = 76) formed from the following factors: marital quality (distressed, nondistressed), family type (nuclear, step), and offspring gender (brother dyads, sister dyads). Videotapes of the families engaged in problem solving discussions were coded with a system designed to capture negative aspects of communication. Results indicated some level of contingency in relation to expressed negativity for all eight groups. Most of the groups became noncontingent in their responses relatively quickly, with five of the eight groups having no patterning by the third talk turn beyond the initial occurrence of negativity. The three groups which persisted in patterning to later lags were nuclear families with distressed marriages and female offspring, stepfamilies with distressed marriages and male offspring, and stepfamilies with nondistressed marriages and male offspring. The most persistent patterning was demonstrated by stepfamilies with distressed marriages and male offspring. A discussion of results centers around self-influenced (i.e., autocontingency) and other-influenced (i.e., cross-contingency) patterns of reaction to negative expression within an interfamilial context.