This study will evaluate the effectiveness of conflict resolution training for families with
preschool and elementary school-aged children.
This study will examine the language, reasoning, and social skills used by preschool and
elementary school children when they and their parents attempt to understand, conduct, and
resolve disputes in everyday family interaction. Families will be given conflict resolution
training designed to promote listening and speaking skills that result in more accurate
interpersonal and emotional understanding. The training may lower the emotional volatility
of family interaction, lower the rate of arguing and fighting between parents and children,
increase the rate and frequency of verbal negotiation, and encourage the adoption of
conflict strategies that focus on future-oriented behavior and positive outcomes.
A total of 324 working class families, representative of the primary ethnic populations in
Chicago (African American, Caucasian, and Mexican American), will be selected for
participation. Both parents, one 4- to 6-year-old child, and one 6- to 8-year-old sibling
will participate. Single parent families will also be included; the parent will be asked to
nominate a second adult or an additional older sibling in place of the second parent.
Each family proceeds through three phases. The initial phase allows assessment of conflict
histories, good times, self-appraisals of psychological well-being, affective and social
variables that operate within the family, and the family members' ability to discuss and
negotiate ongoing problems.
In the second phase, families are randomly assigned to one of three experimental conditions.
One group is given conflict resolution training and then participates in a series of tasks
that focus on child-parent narration, negotiation, and negotiation assessments. A second
group participates in the same tasks without training. A third group undergoes only the
negotiation assessments. The effectiveness of the training will be evaluated by
experimentally assessing conflict resolution skills before and after training in both home
and school contexts.
The third phase is a six-month follow-up visit, during which parents and children are again
observed negotiating problems. Psychological well-being and affective feelings are once
again assessed. The study ends with a debriefing interview for the parents.
The study consists of 14 study visits. Each member in the family will also have four
training sessions. Visits are scheduled 3 to 4 times a month, depending on the family's
- Nuclear family with at least one biological parent
- African American, Caucasian, or Mexican American
- At least two children: one between the ages of 4 and 6 years, and one between the
ages of 6 and 10 years