Psychiatry - Theses

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    Examining the efficacy of Tuning Relationships with Music™ in helping parents with a history of interpersonal trauma reduce conflict and improve emotional responsiveness with their adolescent
    Colegrove, Vivienne Mary ( 2018)
    Parents who have experienced interpersonal trauma in childhood often struggle with relational functioning including difficulties with nonverbal communication (NVC), which may influence their ability to remain regulated during parent-child interaction. The challenges of parenting an adolescent may trigger memories of maltreatment, intensifying conflict, resulting in negative cycles of relating and poorer responsiveness to emotions when parenting. The thesis first explored existing knowledge about NVC in parent-child relationships. Then, the efficacy of Tuning Relationships with Music™ (TRM), an intervention developed by the author for parent- adolescent dyads experiencing heightened conflict where the parent has an interpersonal trauma history, was examined. TRM was expected to reduce conflict and adolescent mental health difficulties and improve parent responsiveness and emotion coaching. A randomised control (RCT) design was used where 26 parent-adolescent dyads were recruited from community services. Dyads were randomly allocated into intervention or wait-list control, completing self-report and observational measures at baseline, and again four months later. The thesis includes three studies. Study 1 reviews the literature about how nonverbal communication (NVC) is assessed and intervened with in parent-child relationships, in order to inform TRM development. Results showed that reliable and validated NVC assessment tools are not routinely used to inform intervention development or measure effectiveness, and that very few interventions directly target parent-child NVC. Study 2 reports on outcomes from the RCT of TRM, which found dyads that participated in TRM reported significantly reduced conflict, and parents were clinically observed to be less reactive and more responsive compared with dyads in the control condition. Although parents reported they were less dismissive and punitive, and more encouraging of their adolescent’s emotions, and both parents and adolescents reported improvements in the young person’s mental health, these were not statistically significant. Study 3 examined dyads as a single dynamic system during nonverbal conflict interaction, and aimed to examine relationships between parents’ trauma history, parent-adolescent conflict, parents’ reactivity and non-responsiveness, and dyads’ emotion regulation, consistency and predictability. A second aim was to discover whether TRM’s focus on NVC and emotion regulation would have an impact on post-intervention dyads’ nonverbal conflict interaction compared with controls. State space grid analyses showed that where parents reported higher levels of parent conflict this was correlated with predictable NVC sequences while dyads were emotionally dysregulated, and parents’ reactivity was correlated with dyads’ inconsistent NVC. Post-intervention dyads were more emotionally regulated, consistent and predictable during their nonverbal conflict interaction. Findings have important implications for intervention with parent-adolescent dyads where a parent has a childhood interpersonal trauma history, suggesting that a systemic focus on NVC and emotion regulation may assist dyads to reduce conflict and increase responsive interaction. This thesis makes a contribution to existing understandings of the systemic dynamics of parent-adolescent conflict where a parent has experienced interpersonal trauma, suggesting that using music to improve emotion regulation and NVC may reduce conflict and improve parents’ responsiveness in parent-adolescent relationships. Further research of TRM with a larger sample will be useful, to determine whether a focus on nonverbal processes may improve relational functioning.