Evaluation of Parents and Adolescents Communicating Together (PACT): A conflict resolution program

Abstract

This study was designed to evaluate Parents and Adolescents Communicating Together (PACT), a program based on the skills of the Wise Ways to Win conflict resolution model (CRM). Mothers and adolescents participated in this program to enhance their communication skills and to develop effective conflict resolution skills. Multivariate analyses were used to examine whether mothers' and adolescents' understanding of the specific skills of the CRM improved following participation in the program.

Results indicated that the program was successful in increasing mothers' and adolescents' abilities to resolve conflict with the aim of finding win-win solutions to problems. Changes in mother-adolescent conflict levels and improvements in communication skills were small, although the participants reported low levels of conflict in the mother-adolescent relationship and reasonable communication skills prior to participation in the program. The Wise Ways to Win conflict resolution model appears to be a theoretically sound model for teaching mothers and adolescents

Authors

Michelle Soltys
Exploring Together, Carlton VIC

Lyn Littlefield
Victorian Parenting Centre, Melbourne VIC

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Keywords

conflict resolution, parents, parenting, adolescents, evaluation, program evaluation

Meta

PP: 030 - 040

Introduction

Conflict between parents and adolescents may be detrimental to parent-adolescent relationships and can impact upon adolescent development (Riesch, Bush, Nelson et al., 2000). Frequent and intense parent-adolescent conflict has been implicated in the aetiology and maintenance of adolescent problems such as low self-esteem and drug use (Gonzales, Cauce & Mason, 1996; Mruk, 1999). Research suggests that repeated conflict within the family may train children in aggressive and coercive behaviours that can lead to negative social consequences for the child (Shek, 1998). Parents may also experience mental health concerns due to parent-adolescent conflict, such as lowered self-esteem, diminished life satisfaction, increased anxiety and depression (Steinberg & Steinberg, 1994). It is important, therefore, that families are equipped to deal with parent-adolescent conflict, to ensure that mental health is maintained and that parent-adolescent relationships are preserved. The developmental stage of adolescence is an appropriate stage for teaching conflict resolution skills. According to the literature, adolescents between the ages of 11 and 15 develop the ability to reason in more abstract and logical ways, and they begin to tune in to more subtle signs of others' feelings and deeper interests, recognising what others' actions might mean (Piaget, 1954; Wertheim, Love, Littlefield & Peck, 1992).

Research has shown that if parents and adolescents learn skills to resolve conflict, parent-adolescent disputes can be prevented from escalating into severe relationship difficulties (Riesch et al., 2000). Adolescents who are able to resolve conflict also tend to have good peer relationships and a fulfilled family life (Johnson & Johnson, 2004). Given the positive benefits that can be derived by teaching parents and adolescents conflict resolution skills, it is crucial that programs are constructed and available. Past research has made significant contributions to the identification of the skills needed to resolve conflict (Burton, 1987; DeReuck, 1990; D'Zurilla & Goldfriend, 1971; Fisher & Ury, 1986; Thompson, 1990). Therefore, skills to resolve parent-adolescent conflict should be built on theory and empirical findings from previous research in the area of conflict resolution.

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