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Although support seekers and providers each make the same number of utterances, seekers speak longer. Support providers make more non-verbal positive indications.

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Presentation on theme: "Although support seekers and providers each make the same number of utterances, seekers speak longer. Support providers make more non-verbal positive indications."— Presentation transcript:

1 Although support seekers and providers each make the same number of utterances, seekers speak longer. Support providers make more non-verbal positive indications that they are listening. Asking for Help: Seeking and Providing Support in Adolescent and Adult Romantic Relationships Jessica Greenberg, Brooke Nicole Crickitt, Nancy Darling Abstract Introduction Methods Procedure Married couples and adolescent couples were scheduled for two-hour laboratory visits at separate times. Prior to collection of questionnaire and videotaped observational data, informed consent was obtained. Adolescent participants younger than 18 years old also provided signed consent from a parent. Each participant completed questionnaires independently and participated in four videotaped problem solving conversations: a social support and a conflict resolution task. Only data from the social support task were analyzed for the current paper. Adolescents were asked to complete questionnaires about global attachment to romantic partners; the quality, functioning, and attachment in their current romantic relationship; perceptions of their parents’ marital quality and functioning; relationships functioning and attachment with respect to their mother and father, emotional well-being and problem behavior. Parents were asked to complete questionnaires about marital attachment and the quality and functioning of their marriage and the quality and functioning of their relationship with the target adolescent. Each partner chose a problem outside the relationship to discuss for the 10-minute social support task, with the order of the initiating partner determined by coin flip. At the end of the lab visit, couples were debriefed. Adolescents were each paid $35 and videorecorded parents $60 each for participation, plus $5 per couple for gas. Measures Observed social support behavior. The 10-minute social support conversations were coded in four steps. This project relies on a microcoding system developed for this study. The beginning and end point of each utterance was identified by speaker (support seeker or support provider). The content of the utterance was identified as primarily emotional, primarily issue, both, or neither. The substance of each utterance was identified by goal: Support seekers’ utterances were coded as: Direct request for help (e.g., “What should I do?”) Indirect request for help (e.g., “I don’t know what to do.”). Indirect requests for help may include expressions of emotions (e.g., whining) or information that clearly solicit instrumental or emotional support. Agree with provider: indicates agreement with a prior statement by the provider that indicates acceptance of their support as a course of action (e.g., “Yes, I should do that.) Neutral response to provider: indicate that they are considering the provider’s suggestion (e.g., “Yes, I could do that...”) Disagree with provider: Rejection of provider’s suggestion. Ignores provider: Does not acknowledge support provided. Support providers’ utterances were coded as: Constructive: Facilitated movement towards exploring or solving the problem. Negative: Undermined the support seeker (e.g., “That’s stupid”, “I think you just have to get over it.”) Neutral: Acknowledges seeker without providing clear feedback. Off-topic: Either speaker’s utterance was coded as ‘off-topic’ if it did not pertain to the topic or follow from the previous conversation (e.g., “Can I have the soda?”) Non-verbal behavior: Positive (e.g. nods or ‘uh-huhs) and negative (e.g., shook heads) non- verbal behaviors were coded only when the individual was in the listening, not speaking, role. Results How do seekers and providers differ? The mean number of utterances, the percent time that each person spoke, the mean duration of utterances, and the number of positive and negative non-verbal behaviors were calculated for support seekers and support providers. By middle and late adolescence, most adolescents have been involved in romantic relationships and romantic partners become a primary source of social support. The importance of romantic partners as support providers remains important throughout adulthood, particularly within marriage. Although it is tempting to assume that what we know from the rich, process-oriented literature on marriage can be generalized to adolescent romantic couples, differences in the level of commitment, duration, and intimacy of relationships during these two developmental periods makes this assumption questionable. In addition, because most middle adolescents are relatively inexperienced in intimate cross-gender relationships, they may be less effective at communicating with opposite sex peers and less effective at soliciting and providing support. The goal of the current study is to compare adolescent romantic partners and a matched sample of adults (their married parents) in terms of how they elicit and provide support. Research on social support indicates that some sources of support may function differently than others. Social support is thought to be most effective when it comes from individuals who are socially similar in values and characteristics (Dehle, 2001). Establishing a supportive and caring relationship with a romantic partner is a primary goal for most individuals and an important predictor of health and well-being (Baumeister & Leary, 1995; Uchino, Cacioppo, & Keicolt-Glaser, 1996). However, developing mutually supportive relationships are not always easy. How each partner caters to the other’s emotional and cognitive needs is highly variable and is dependent on many different factors. Partners often differ in their willingness and ability to respond to one another’s needs and to provide the type of support that promotes one another’s welfare and relationship satisfaction. Do adolescents differ from adults in how they elicit and provide social support to one another? The overall pattern of responses suggests differences between both support seekers and providers and between adults and adolescents. Adolescent seekers and providers tend to speak more, but in shorter bursts than adults. Adolescents also tend to provide more negative and less positive non-verbal feedback to their partners. Adults in both the support seeker and support provider role speak in longer utterances and provide more feedback to their partners, both in terms of verbal and non-verbal acknowledgement. Overall, adult support providers play a more active role in the conversation. They nod more when their partner is speaking, they provide and seek more information, and they speak more. Although teen support seekers make slightly more direct requests for help, adults spend more time explaining their requests. There is no difference in indirect requests for help. Adult support seekers seem to listen to providers more than do teens. In particular, they agree more, negate less, and provide more neutral (i.e., ‘considering’) responses and these responses are of longer duration. Adult and adolescent support providers differ less in the number or content of utterances than they do in their duration. Adult providers spend more time providing constructive, negative, and particularly neutral comments. Subsequent analysis suggests that much of the neutral content is in providing and soliciting additional information to facilitate problem solving. Conclusion Thanks to the many participants who shared their lives with us, to the students at Bard College who worked on recruitment and data collection, and to the many Oberlin students involved in coding these data. We would particularly like to thank Erika van der Velden, Sara Clarke, Amanda SellenRose Meacham, Clayton Kennedy, and especially Andrew Burns. This poster can be downloaded from Conclusions How does the content of adults’ and adolescents’ supportive behavior differ? Do adolescents and adults differ in how they seek and provide social support from their romantic partners? Micro-analytic coding at the utterance level was used to examine the content and duration of support behaviors in this matched sample of 30 adolescent and adult romantic couples. The overall pattern of results indicates that adolescents explain themselves less, acknowledge each other less, and provide less positive and more negative non-verbal feedback than do adults. Adult supporters also contribute more actively to support seeking conversations. Table 1: Social Support Behaviors SeekerProvider # Utterances % Time Mean Duration # Negative # Positive Do adolescent and adult seekers and providers differ? The mean number of utterances, the percent time that each person spoke, and the mean duration of utterances, and positive and negative non-verbal behaviors were calculated for support seekers and support providers by age. Adolescent support seekers differed from adj.ts in speaking more, but in shorter bursts. Adolescents were also more likely to provide negative non-verbal cues to support providers and were less likely to provide non-verbal cues that they were listening and agreeing. Adolescent support providers also made more utterances and in shorter bursts than did adults. Adult support providers, however, spoke for a greater proportion of time (e.g., they contributed more to the conversation relative to the seeker) than did adolescents. Like seekers, adolescent providers provided more negative and fewer positive non-verbal cues than adults. Methods Sample The data used in this project represent a subset of a larger multi-method observational study of 103 adolescent romantic couples and the married parents of one member of the adolescent couple. The present study involved observations of 15 mother-father and 15 adolescent-romantic partner dyads. All families were initially recruited through identification of a target adolescent in their junior or senior year in high school who was currently involved in a romantic relationship lasting four weeks or longer. In addition to these criteria, the parents of at least one adolescent romantic partner needed to be currently married to one another. After the target adolescent and their romantic partner were recruited into the study, the currently married biological parents of one member of the adolescent romantic couple were then contacted and recruited to participate. The current paper thus reports on data from 30 parents (15 couples) and 30 adolescent romantic partners (15 couples). On average, married couples had been married 23 years (range=15-37, sd=4.8) and adolescent couples had dated for 12 months (range=1-38, sd = 9.7) at the time of the study. The mean age for husbands and wives was 50.7 years (sd = 6.7) and 48.1 (sd=5.8), respectively. The mean age for male and female adolescents was 17.8 (sd=1.3) and 17.1 (sd=1.0), respectively. Parents had an average of 15.5 years of education, ranging from years with 83% of families reporting earning over $50,000 per year.


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