Category: Parenting / Families
Family emotional climate (FEC) is related to youth internalizing symptoms. Some evidence suggests a high negative FEC (NFEC; i.e. controlling behaviors, negative emotion expression) and a less positive FEC (PFEC; i.e. warmth, positive emotion expression) are related uniquely to internalizing symptoms (Luebbe & Bell, 2014). Yet, the mechanism remains unclear, especially for adolescents. Dyadic affective flexibility (DAF), a relatively new construct that marks the ability of a dyad to flexibly shift from one emotion state to another in response to changes in the environment (Hollenstein, 2007), may mediate the relation between FEC and internalizing symptoms. Indeed, low DAF (i.e. rigidity) has been related to adolescent internalizing symptoms (Van der Giessen, 2014). There are no studies examining the relation between FEC and DAF or DAF’s role as a mediator. We hypothesized that DAF mediates the relation between FEC and adolescents’ internalizing symptoms, with low DAF explaining this relation.
The sample was 82 adolescents (ages 11-18; 60.2% female; 79.5% Caucasian; 51.9% < $40K family income) and their mothers. Adolescents completed the Family Expressiveness Questionnaire-Short Form (FEQ), the Psychological Control Scale (PCS), and the acceptance scale of the Child Report of Parent’s Behavior Inventory (CRPBI-AS) at time 1 and the Revised Child Anxiety and Depression Scale (RCADS) at time 2 (~6 months). Mothers and adolescents participated in 2, 5-minute interaction tasks: planning a fun daytrip and discussing a family conflict. Recorded interactions were coded using the Dyadic Interaction Coding Manual-V2.0 at the centisecond level (reliability = 80-99% across codes). DAF was operationalized by Range, the number of emotion states the dyad reached. We created composite variables for NFEC (PCS, negative FEQ), PFEC (CRPBI-AS, positive FEQ), and DAF (mean Range in the two tasks).
Controlling for adolescent age, and contrary to hypotheses, NFEC significantly predicted increased DAF, b=.62, SE=.28, p=.03 (i.e., the “a” path). Also contrary to hypotheses, DAF was related to more internalizing symptoms, b=2.10, SE=.63, pSE=.78, 95%CI [.13, 3.42]. Testing PFEC, there was no indirect effect (ab= -.66, SE=.66, 95%CI [-2.21, .48]) due to the lack of relation between PFEC and DAF, b= -.30, SE=.29, p=.31.