What is it about?

Early family experience is important for adolescent development. This study identified six types of families, each with a unique pattern of positive interactions among the mother, father, and the child in early years. These different types of families help adolescents develop distinct strengths in 10-15 years later. In child-centered families, parents are more involvement with the child but both parents are less affective toward each other; adolescents raised in these families are better able to be focused and engaged in what they are doing. In cohesive families, both parents and the child positively interact with each other; adolescents raised in these families are happier in general. In collaborative families, mothers are more involved with the child and fathers are more supportive to mothers; adolescents raised in these families and in cohesive families are more persistent in tasks and have better interpersonal relationships. Unfortunately, in disengaged families, both parents and the child do not affectively interact with each other; adolescents raised in these families are least optimistic about their life.

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Why is it important?

This study is unique in that it focused on multiple positive family processes and examined their implications on adolescent development from an asset-enriching, strength-enhancing perspective, which can inform strength-based intervention design. The pattern-based, family-centered perspective of this study is unique in that it treats each family as a holistic, dynamic system. Moreover, the finding is representative and compelling by using in multi-informant data from ethnically diverse families and demonstrating the longitudinal implication on adolescent development over 10-15 years. This study led to two important conclusions: (1) there could be more than one type of good interaction patterns among three family members, and (2) different family interaction patterns in early childhood could contribute to distinct strengths in adolescence.


I hope that this article encourages people to pay more attention to and value the positive elements of family interactions, especially in early childhood. I also hope that the findings raise awareness that there may be more than one type of "good" family, and that different families may raise children with varying strengths.

Dr. Mengya Xia
University of Alabama

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Different families, diverse strengths: Long-term implications of early childhood family processes on adolescent positive functioning., Developmental Psychology, June 2022, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/dev0001401.
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