Sunday, January 1, 2012

Danette Y. Conklin completes dissertation in the School of Psychology

An Exploratory Study of Variables Related to Behavior Problems and Parent/Peer Relationship Problems for Adolescents Referred to an Outpatient Clinic -- Danette Y. Conklin

Danette Y. Conklin is a Postdoctoral Psychology Fellow in Chronic Pain Medicine (Psychology) Program, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland Ohio.  Her professional website:

This study investigated to what extent unstable environments and biological parent characteristics contributed to internalizing and externalizing behavior problems, to the severity of those problems overall, and to relationship problems with parents and peers, for adolescents referred for outpatient mental health treatment. The participants were 11- to 17-year-old, male and female adolescents from both non-minority and minority groups. This cross-sectional survey used archival data that included self-reports and interview data. Contained in the archives and used in the regression analyses were family structure, reported mental illness, and reported substance problems of the biological parents. Age, race/ethnicity, and gender of the adolescents were used as control variables. Though this was not a study of attachment behaviors, Bowlby’s (1960) attachment theory served as a strong theoretical grounding based on his insights regarding how unstable environments may relate to the development of children and adolescents.

The outcome of the study revealed that parent substance problems were significant contributors to behavior problems for teens referred for outpatient mental health treatment. Biological mothers’ substance problems related most strongly to conduct problems and somatic distress. Substance problems of the biological fathers contributed more to symptoms of depression and anxiety. The coefficients of father substance problems and adolescent age were found related to parent and peer relationship problems, but the coefficients did not support the overall regression model. There were several other analyses included in this study, such as the correlation between race/ethnicity and the outcome variables. In addition, the psychometric properties of the total scale and all of the subscales on Youth Outcome Questionnaire – 30.1 were analyzed and compared to past research. A subscale was developed for this study as an exploratory measure from the Youth Outcome Questionnaire – 30.1, called the Parent/ Peer Relationship Problems subscale and analyzed to examine its internal consistency.

The quantitative findings of this study could be used for treatment planning, particularly for families where biological mothers and/or fathers have a history of substance problems. The qualitative data supported the quantitative findings that adolescents exhibited more problems with parent and peer relationships when the biological father reportedly had substance problems.

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