Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 44, Issue 8, pp 1607–1622 | Cite as

Parent–Adolescent Conflict as Sequences of Reciprocal Negative Emotion: Links with Conflict Resolution and Adolescents’ Behavior Problems

  • Anat MoedEmail author
  • Elizabeth T. Gershoff
  • Nancy Eisenberg
  • Claire Hofer
  • Sandra Losoya
  • Tracy L. Spinrad
  • Jeffrey Liew
Empirical Research


Although conflict is a normative part of parent–adolescent relationships, conflicts that are long or highly negative are likely to be detrimental to these relationships and to youths’ development. In the present article, sequential analyses of data from 138 parent–adolescent dyads (adolescents’ mean age was 13.44, SD = 1.16; 52 % girls, 79 % non-Hispanic White) were used to define conflicts as reciprocal exchanges of negative emotion observed while parents and adolescents were discussing “hot,” conflictual issues. Dynamic components of these exchanges, including who started the conflicts, who ended them, and how long they lasted, were identified. Mediation analyses revealed that a high proportion of conflicts ended by adolescents was associated with longer conflicts, which in turn predicted perceptions of the “hot” issue as unresolved and adolescent behavior problems. The findings illustrate advantages of using sequential analysis to identify patterns of interactions and, with some certainty, obtain an estimate of the contingent relationship between a pattern of behavior and child and parental outcomes. These interaction patterns are discussed in terms of the roles that parents and children play when in conflict with each other, and the processes through which these roles affect conflict resolution and adolescents’ behavior problems.


Emotion Parent–adolescent Conflict Parenting Sequential analysis Family dynamics 



The authors wish to acknowledge support for this research from the National Institute of Mental Health (1 R01 MH 60838) awarded to the third author and from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (1R01HD068522-02S1) awarded to the third author and Carlos Valiente.

Authors’ contributions

AM conceptualized the hypotheses, analyzed the data, and wrote the final manuscript. ETG designed and supervised the research, coded the data, conceptualized the hypotheses, helped interpret the data, wrote some sections of the manuscript, and critically revised the manuscript for intellectual content. NE designed and supervised the research and critically revised the manuscript for intellectual content. TS supervised the research and critically revised the manuscript for intellectual content. CH, SL, and JL coded the data critically revised the manuscript for intellectual content. All authors read and approved the final version of the manuscript.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest with respect to their authorship or the publication of this article. This study has been approved by the appropriate ethics committee and have therefore been performed in accordance with the ethical standards laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anat Moed
    • 1
    Email author
  • Elizabeth T. Gershoff
    • 1
  • Nancy Eisenberg
    • 2
  • Claire Hofer
    • 3
  • Sandra Losoya
    • 2
  • Tracy L. Spinrad
    • 4
  • Jeffrey Liew
    • 5
  1. 1.Human Development and Family SciencesUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  3. 3.UFR de PsychologieUniversité Charles de Gaulle – Lille 3Villeneuve d’AscqFrance
  4. 4.School of Social and Family DynamicsArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  5. 5.Education and Human DevelopmentTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA

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