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Adolescent -to -parent abuse: A communicative analysis of conflict processes present in the verbal, physical, or emotional abuse of parents

By Nancy Jo Eckstein


The research on family abuse has focused primarily on spousal and child abuse. However, there is another dimension of family abuse not often identified and even more rarely addressed by researchers: adolescent-to-parent abuse. This type of abuse involves the verbal, physical, and emotional abuse of parents by adolescents who continue to live in the home. The primary purpose of the present study was to understand adolescent-to-parent violence from a communication perspective by focusing on the communicative conflict patterns, themes, conflict goals, styles, strategies, and tactics present in these types of abusive family systems. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 20 parents who had been verbally, physically, and/or emotionally abused by their adolescent children and data were analyzed for emergent patterns, themes, and enactment of conflict in parent abuse episodes. Presented in these results are the (a) communicative patterns and themes present in adolescent-to-parent abuse episodes, (b) perceived conflict goals of adolescents, (c) frequency and correlation of parent and adolescent conflict styles, and (d) communicative strategies and tactics enacted by abused parents to prevent escalation of adolescent-to-parent abuse episodes. Findings in this study reveal two specific communicative patterns used by adolescents in parent abuse episodes leading to different types of abuse: asking pattern and requesting pattern. Additionally, different types of parent abuse (verbal, physical, emotional) have different conflict goals associated with them (content, relational, identity, process, individual needs, hurting). Parents used specific conflict styles, strategies, and tactics in an attempt to prevent escalation of conflict episodes. Finally, the utility of these findings for understanding adolescent-to-parent abuse interaction processes are discussed

Topics: Communication|Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology|Social psychology|Criminology
Publisher: DigitalCommons@University of Nebraska - Lincoln
Year: 2002
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