Tuning in to teens: examining the efficacy of an emotion-focused parenting intervention in reducing pre-adolescents’ internalising difficulties
AuthorKehoe, Christiane Evelyne
AffiliationMelbourne School of Psychological Sciences
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusThis item is currently not available from this repository
© 2014 Dr. Christiane Evelyne Kehoe
The transition from childhood to adolescence coincides with an increase in anxiety, a peak in somatic complaints, and a post-pubertal rise in depression by mid-adolescence, particularly for girls. For those affected, internalising difficulties result in considerable stress and impairment for the young person even if symptoms do not reach criteria for clinical diagnosis. Up to 50% of all adult psychological disorders have their onset during adolescence, highlighting the importance of identifying methods of prevention that are evidence-based. Emotional competence has been found to be an important protective factor for healthy social, emotional, and behavioural functioning. Both adolescents and adults with internalising difficulties show deficits in aspects of emotional competence. Research in child development suggests that parents’ emotional competence and emotion socialisation practices are related to children’s emotional functioning, including child internalising difficulties. This research has not yet been translated into intervention or prevention programs targeting parents of adolescents. The current study examined the efficacy of the Tuning in to Teens parenting program in improving emotion socialisation practices in parents of pre-adolescents and in measuring the impact on youth internalising difficulties. Grounded in emotion socialisation theory, this program teaches parents skills in responding to emotions in ways that enhance emotional competence in the young person, while also improving parent-youth communication and connectedness. A group-randomised control design was used where participants were recruited from schools and randomised into intervention and control conditions. Data were collected from 225 parents and 224 youth during the young person’s final year of elementary school (6th grade) and again, 10 months later in their first year of secondary school (7th grade). The thesis includes three studies. Study 1 reports the results of multilevel analyses, which showed participation in Tuning in to Teens resulted in significant improvements in parental emotion socialisation and reductions in youth internalising difficulties for the intervention condition. Study 2 examined moderators and mediators of program outcome. Results showed greater program effects for intervention subgroups with high pre-intervention difficulties. Parental education, income, parental internalising difficulties, parental difficulties in emotion awareness and regulation, and attendance rate did not moderate program effects. Mediation analyses supported emotion socialisation theory and showed parents who participated in the Tuning in to Teens parenting program reported improvements in emotion socialisation, which in turn was related to reductions in youth internalising difficulties. Study 3 investigated the relationship between parent emotion socialisation and youth somatic complaints. The study extended the literature on somatic complaints by being the first to consider parents’ emotional competence and emotion socialisation practices as predictors of youth somatic complaints alongside parents’ own somatic complaints. Results indicated that changes in parents’ awareness and regulation of emotion and emotion socialisation practices resulted in reduced youth somatic complaints. These findings have important implications for current aetiological models of somatic complaints and provide support for using an emotion-focused approach to enhance current treatment models of youth somatic complaints. A significant contribution of this thesis is that it presents the first randomised control trial evaluation of a parenting program that utilises research linking parents’ emotion socialisation with young people’s mental health, applying it in practice with a sample of parents of pre-adolescents. The research findings provide support for emotion socialisation theory and for using an emotion focused parenting program to prevent internalising difficulties in early adolescence.
Keywordsparenting intervention; adolescence; anxiety; depression; somatic complaints
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