Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences, Vol. 16, Iss. 3, July, 2012, pp. 331-352
@2012 Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology & Life Sciences


The Nonlinear Dynamics of Family Problem Solving in Adolescence: The Predictive Validity of a Peaceful Resolution Attractor

Thomas J. Dishion, Arizona State University, Tempe AZ and University of Oregon, Eugene OR
Marion Forgatch, Oregon Social Learning Center, Eugene OR
Mark Van Ryzin, University of Oregon, Eugene OR
Charlotte Winter, University of Oregon, Eugene OR

Abstract: In this study we examined the videotaped family interactions of a community sample of adolescents and their parents. Youths were assessed in early to late adolescence on their levels of antisocial behavior. At age 16-17, youths and their parents were videotaped interacting while completing a variety of tasks, including family problem solving. The interactions were coded and compared for three developmental patterns of antisocial behavior: early onset, persistent; adolescence onset; and typically developing. The mean duration of conflict bouts was the only interaction pattern that discriminated the 3 groups. In the prediction of future antisocial behavior, parent and youth reports of transition entropy and conflict resolution interacted to account for antisocial behavior at age 18-19. Families with low entropy and peaceful resolutions predicted low levels of youth antisocial behavior at age 18-19. These findings suggest the need to study both attractors and repellers to understand family dynamics associated with health and social and emotional development.

Keywords: coercion theory, entropy, antisocial behavior, nonlinear dynamics