Essay on Parent-Adolescent Communication and the Circumplex Model

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Parent-Adolescent Communication and the Circumplex Model article has focused on the relationship between parents and adolescents in the cognitive and social development of their children. According to Barnes & Olson (1985), there is a description of the nature of communication between parent and adolescents in different family systems as perceived by the children and their parents. Communication is a facilitating dimension that eases the growth of families. Therefore, it has been discovered that there is need to ensure there is communication especially to the young generation as they grow in their adolescent years. Some of the effects of communication on the children are role-taking ability and identity formation. Adolescents who experience the support of their parents, for instance, may feel freer to discover identity matters than those without parental support.

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Communication between children and parents has brought moral reasoning in adolescents. Parent-adolescent communication is important in family studies. It enables a learner to identify that each child needs support from the parent or guidance as the child grows up. Communication is also a binding factor in homes hence the study shows that communication needs to be embraced in homes. When embraced, children learn to be independent, open to their parents and feel free to form their identities. The authors have established the importance of the problem by making an analysis of various authors on patterns of communication and their relationship to the growth of adolescents. For instance, the authors have identified communication as a major dimension of in the circumplex model of family and marital systems. They have also stated that communication enables the family members to attain a balance between connectedness and separateness.

The authors have additionally identified the circumplex model of family and marital systems as a form of classifying families into family cohesion and family adaptability. Families are grouped into extreme, balances and mid-range and balanced families have been found to have more positive communication skills compared to extreme families. Lack of communication has been discouraged because it inhibits the ability of family systems capability to change levels of adaptability and cohesion hence the need for a balanced family.

Literature review

Various authors have been cited in the study. The main area of discussion of the literature review is on parent-adolescent communication. The authors have outlined how communication between the adolescents and their parents influences how families function. They have also indicated the importance of the communication to adolescents. Authors such as Steinberg & Hill (1978) and Grotevant & Cooper (1983) have stated that there is little focus on communication between adolescents and their parents and it has affected the functioning of the families. Olson et al. (1979 and 1983) have perceived communication as one of the three main dimensions of the circumplex model of family and marital systems and have stated that it is important in the adaptability and cohesiveness of the families.

Stanley (1978) and Holstein (1972) realized that when parent and children have discussions, the levels of moral reasoning of the adolescents grow. Olson et al. (1983) on the other hand did a study showing that there is a linear relationship between family adaptability and family cohesion. The literature review section has used various previous studies that link with the articles purpose of the study. The studies have shown the importance of communication especially between adolescents and parents that is the focus of the study. It has also captured the circumplex model and found some limitations of some of the studies, which are later studied in the article. However, some journal articles used seem outdated for the study because some were studied 8-10 years before 1985 when the article was written thus making some of this information unreliable for the study. The section also lacks an in-depth explanation of how the studies were conducted and the limitations that they may have had.

Summary and Methodology

The article has used the circumplex model of marital and family systems that is divided into two curvilinear dimensions- family adaptability and family cohesion. The model has a central location on both dimensions of the model, which indicates optimal family functioning. The model has four levels of adaptability and cohesion that identifies 16 types of marital and family systems. The 16 types are later grouped into three general categories: mid-range, extreme and balanced families. The balanced families are seeing as those that are freer to adjust levels of adaptability and cohesion to attain their needs while mid-range families have extreme levels of one-dimension and mid-range levels of the other. Extreme families have been evaluated as the families that are limited in their potential ability of family organization and resources to manage family life challenges.

The study has used a quantitative research method. The research method aims to collect information and convert it into numerical form for conclusions to be drawn. Opinion, attitudes, and behaviors are some of the variables that can be quantified collected from online polls, interviews and observations. The study has used research instruments such as the family adaptability and cohesion evaluation scales, version II from Olson, Portner and Bell (1982) in questionnaires to evaluate the family types based on the circumplex model. Scales such as family satisfaction scale and quality of life satisfaction scale were also used in the research. The information collected was then analyzed using t-tests, paired t-tests as well as chi-squares, which are grouped under quantitative research method.

The participants of the study were families, which consisted of the two parents and one adolescent. The study conducted was anonymous or confidential. Confidentiality in research indicates that the data collected from the research participants is kept in secret in that only the participants and the researcher identify the responses of specific participants. The researcher needs to ensure no third party manages to connect the participants with their responses. Anonymity, on the other hand, indicates that the study does not collect participants information on their identities such as their name, email addresses or addresses. The families that participated in the study indicated their issues in families such as divorce and family therapy, ages of the husbands, the position of the adolescents in the families and their ages. There was no information linked to each participant response or their identity information indicating that the research done was confidential and anonymous.

There are dependent and independent variables. A dependent variable is a variable that depends on other factors while an independent variable cannot be altered by other variables. In this study, the dependent variable is the parent-adolescent communication while the independent variable is the circumplex model of marital and family. It is easy to alter the extent of communication between a parent and an adolescent however the circumplex model remains as it is despite the changes in communication. The dependent variables were grouped into family coping, family satisfaction, family adaptability, family stress and family cohesion.

The information that was collected in the study was from a cross-sectional sample of 1140 families by 150 group leaders. The participants would go to a group meeting to complete their questionnaires. However, the group leaders had to separate the families during the completion of the questionnaires to maximize honesty and independence in responses. There were also subgroups of the randomly stratified sample of 1140 intact families that were 426 families from across the nation. Two hundred and twelve female and 214 male adolescents took part in the study. Various scales such as the open family communication scale and parent-adolescent communication scale were used for the study to measure different degrees of the participants responses. The questionnaire forms were quite different for the adolescents and the parents because the adolescents needed to answer the questions twice, one according to their mother and the other according to their fathers take while the parents only answered the questions once to show how they communicated with their adolescent. The study does not indicate any ethical issues.

The researchers identified that mothers communicated better with their children compared to their fathers. Parents showed fewer problems and more openness in communication with their children compared to what their children stated. There was no gender difference between adolescent males and females in their perception of parent-adolescent communication. According to the findings, families that showed effective communications were associated with the balanced family group while the ones who had limited communication were in the extreme family type. In a family level analysis, there was a linear relationship between family cohesion and adaptability and communication compared to the individual level.

Strengths and limitations

The study has used questionnaires with various types of scales to distinguish the different ranges of responses offered by the participants. The researchers were able to identify the ways participants perceived different variables compared to their parents. The study has also used chi-square and t-tests for data analysis, which make an analysis of a big sample easy and accurate. The study has used a large sample as well as that makes the research reliable and precise. The study has however not answered questions such as the extent to which the parent-adolescent differences showed different developmental levels between generations if fathers were aware that children had a better rapport with their mothers and if traditional gender roles that make women more emotionally open are the factors leading to mother-child communication.


As a reader, one feels that the research is well done. However, there would be the incorporation of qualitative research methods, which complements the quantitative studies by enabling one, know what has already researched and the limitations of those studies and incorporate them in this study. The article enables a reader to understand that communication between adolescents and their parents is important. Therefore, the study is helpful in understanding the statistics of the parent-adolescent communication on the ground hence can be a good study that can be incorporated in family studies and human services field. The research has not suggested any information for future research.


Barnes, H. L., & Olson, D. H. (1985). Parent-adolescent communication and the circumplex model. Child development, 438-447.

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