Observations of parent monitoring and family problem solving in adolescence: Convergent and predictive validity for European American and African American youth
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The two family management skills targeted in this study were parent monitoring and problem solving, both established in previous research as particularly important in the etiology of adolescent problem behavior. Videotaped parent-adolescent family interactions were coded for monitoring, problem solving, and negative interaction dynamics in an ethnically diverse sample of 714 European American and African American males and females. Each construct was assessed at age 16-17 using multiple indicators and methods to evaluate convergent, discriminant, and predictive validity as a function of ethnic status. Structural equation modeling revealed that convergent validity of parental monitoring among parent (mother/father), youth, and observations measures was equivalent for both ethnic groups. So too, the convergent validity among measures of problem solving was equivalent for both groups. The two constructs, respectively, were found to be modestly correlated in both ethnic groups at approximately the same level. In addition, the construct of parental monitoring was found to be highly predictive of future drug use in both European American and African American families. In both ethnic groups, high levels of monitoring were related to low levels of drug use at age 18-19. So too, parental monitoring and problem solving, respectively, were equally predictive of antisocial behavior at age 18-19 in both ethnic groups, in the expected direction, with higher levels of family management modestly predicting decreased antisocial behavior in later adolescence. In contrast, findings reveal differential predictive validity of problem solving and monitoring on observed negativity as a function of ethnicity. The differential pattern of covariation between these two family management constructs and observed negative interactions suggests either possible biases in coder ratings or, more likely, different interaction patterns within ethnic groups that define effective parenting. These findings suggest that parental monitoring and problem solving, as measured in this study, have considerable construct validity across reporting agents (mother/father/adolescent and coder), assessment methodologies (self-report/observational), and ethnic group membership (European American/African American). Finally these findings suggest that interventions that target parent monitoring and family problem solving are of value for both European American and African American families in efforts to decrease or prevent problem behavior in adolescence.
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