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Congruence and Incongruence in Adolescents’ and Parents’ Perceptions of the Family: Using Response Surface Analysis to Examine Links with Adolescents’ Psychological Adjustment

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Parents and adolescents often hold discrepant views about the family environment and these discrepancies may in turn influence adolescents’ psychological adjustment. The current study examined how adolescent–parent perceptions of family routines and chaos, and their congruence and incongruence, relate to adolescents’ self-reported psychological adjustment (depressive symptoms and perceived stress), both concurrently (N dyads = 261; 53 % female) and 2 years later (N dyads = 118; 50 % female). Using polynomial regression and response surface analysis, results indicated that adolescents’ perceptions of the family environment were a stronger predictor of adolescents’ adjustment than parents’ perceptions (76 % mothers), concurrently and over time. However, both congruence and incongruence in adolescent–parent perceptions were also related to adolescents’ adjustment. Specifically, congruently negative adolescent–parent perceptions were associated with worse concurrent adolescent adjustment. Further, incongruence defined by more negativity in adolescents’ versus parents’ perceptions was associated with worse adolescent psychological adjustment, concurrently and over time. In sum, in addition to the strong links between adolescents’ perceptions of the family and their own psychological adjustment, examining how congruent and incongruent adolescents’ perceptions are with parents’ perceptions may shed additional light on how the family environment relates to adolescent adjustment.

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  1. See Manczak et al. (2015) and Human et al. (2014) for details on additional components of the study.

  2. The RSA coefficients are derived directly from the polynomial coefficients as follows: a 1 = (b Parent + b Adol), where b Parent is the beta coefficient for parents’ ratings and b Adol is the beta coefficient for adolescents’ ratings. a 2 = (b 2Parent  + b Adol*Parent + b 2Adol ), where b 2Parent is the beta coefficient for parents’ ratings squared, b Adol*Parent is the beta coefficient for the cross-product of parents’ and adolescents’ ratings, and b 2Adol is the beta coefficient for adolescents’ ratings squared. a 3 = (b Parent − b Adol). a4 = (b 2Parent  − b Adol*Parent + b 2Adol ). The RSA package in R (Schönbrodt 2015) calculates and provides significance tests for each RSA coefficient. However, the package does not currently enable the inclusion of covariates. Thus, for all analyses involving covariates (see “Sensitivity Analyses” section), the RSA coefficients were derived from the polynomial coefficients using the formulas above and significance tests were calculated by hand using formulas provided by Shanock et al. (2010, Appendix 2).


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Authors’ Contributions

LH participated in the conception of the paper, performed the statistical analyses, and drafted the manuscript; MD participated in the conception of the paper, consulted on the statistical approach, and provided critical revisions to the manuscript; AD participated in the design of the study and provided critical revisions to the manuscript; EC conceived of the study design and coordination, and provided critical revisions to the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


This study was funded by Canadian Institutes of Health Research Grant funding reference number: 97872.

Conflict of interest

The authors report no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All study procedures were approved by the University of British Columbia behavioral research ethics review board and were in accordance with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from parent participants and assent was obtained from adolescent participants.

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Correspondence to Lauren J. Human.

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Human, L.J., Dirks, M.A., DeLongis, A. et al. Congruence and Incongruence in Adolescents’ and Parents’ Perceptions of the Family: Using Response Surface Analysis to Examine Links with Adolescents’ Psychological Adjustment. J Youth Adolescence 45, 2022–2035 (2016).

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