chapter  10
Demand and Withdraw Behavior and Emotion in Mother-Adolescent Conflict
ByChristin E. Huggins, Melissa Sturge-Apple, Patrick T. Davies
Pages 20

Adolescence is a point of transition for families that can create turbulence in the parent-child relationship as both parties work to successfully navigate changing relational dynamics (Branje, 2008; Branje et al, 2013; Knobloch & Solomon, 2004). Conflict is characteristic of this developmental stage due to the high levels of interdependence and emotional involvement between parents and adolescent children (Braiker & Kelly, 1979; Laursen & Collins, 2004; Sillars et al, 2004). Indeed, adolescents report experiencing interpersonal conflict most often with mothers, followed by fathers and close friends (Laursen & Collins, 1994). Parentchild conflicts can increase in both frequency and intensity during early adolescence with the topics of conflict often centering on mundane issues such as cleanliness, chores, and curfews (Adams & Laursen, 2001). The conflictual discussions between parents and adolescents are of substantial import to adolescent development as children seek to obtain autonomy from parents through these interactions (Branje, 2008). Efforts to gain autonomy must be strategically managed to preserve the parent-adolescent relationship and the individuals’ well-being. However, parent-child conflict interactions are often resolved through the use of negative communication behaviors including power displays and withdrawal (Adams & Laursen, 2001). As such these conflict interactions are punctuated by the use of demand and withdraw behaviors (Caughlin & Malis, 2004a; 2004b; Caughlin & Ramey, 2005). Prior efforts by Caughlin and colleagues have established the presence of these

communicative behaviors in the parent-adolescent relationship (Caughlin & Ramey, 2005) as well as the association of the dyadic pattern of demand-withdraw with adjustment and relational outcomes (Caughlin & Malis, 2004a; 2004b). Despite the established presence of the maladaptive conflict behaviors of demand and withdraw within these relationships, scarce research has continued to examine

these behaviors within parent-adolescent conflict interactions. The aim of the current chapter is to provide a focused review of demand and withdraw behavior within the context of parent-adolescent relationships and address a limitation of previous research by examining the connection between these behaviors and emotion experience during conflict. The chapter is divided into three segments. In the first portion, we review the current state of research specific to demanding and withdrawing during conflict between parents and their adolescent children. The second section presents a study of the association between the use of demands and withdrawal in mother-adolescent conflict with the experience of negative emotion and perceptions of conflict resolution. The concluding remarks place the results of the current study within the larger context of parent-adolescent conflict and provide future directions for the study of demand and withdraw behaviors in this context.

The behaviors of demand and withdraw, though often enacted within close relationships (Caughlin, 2002), are maladaptive approaches to conflict engagement. Demand behavior includes complaining, nagging, or commanding of another, while withdraw behavior is manifest through disengaging or avoiding an issue under discussion (Caughlin, 2002; Christensen, 1988; Malis & Roloff, 2006; Vogel & Karney, 2002). Though conflict during adolescence may not be particularly severe (Caughlin & Ramey, 2005), conflict is characteristic of family relationships and for adolescents occurs more often within the parent-child relationship than in other close relations (Branje et al, 2013). When conflicts are managed through the employment of demands and withdrawal, the individuals within the relationship and the relationship overall may be adversely affected. Initial efforts by Caughlin and Ramey (2005) to explore demand and withdraw

behavior within parent-adolescent relationships demonstrate that both parties engage in these behaviors during conflict. Specifically, adolescents were more likely to withdraw from conflict than were parents, while parents engaged in demanding more so than did adolescents. The authors also examined differences in employment of these behaviors according to topic ownership. Parents were more likely to engage in demanding behavior when discussing a topic in which they were seeking a change from their child. In turn, adolescents demanded more and withdrew less when engaged in discussion of an issue in which they desired a change in their parent. Together, the results of Caughlin and Ramey’s (2005) analysis indicate the conditions under which parents and adolescent children enact demand and withdrawal communication behaviors. The work of Caughlin and Malis (2004a; 2004b) furthered understanding of

demanding and withdrawing within parent-adolescent relationships by illustrating the detrimental outcomes associated with the enactment of these behaviors during conflict. When examining audio recordings of conflicts between a parent and a

child 13 to 16 years of age, the authors identified parents’ and adolescents’ retrospective self-reports of the dyadic pattern of demand-withdraw along with adolescents’ postconversation reports of the pattern to be negatively associated with parents’ perceived relational satisfaction. Additionally with regard to adolescents’ satisfaction, retrospective and post-conversation self-reports of the demand-withdraw pattern were negatively associated with adolescents’ relational satisfaction (Caughlin & Malis, 2004a). Not only may engagement in the dyadic pattern of demand-withdraw be detrimental to perceptions of the parent-child relationship, but also may have negative implications for the individual’s adjustment. Caughlin and Malis (2004b) noted frequent implementation of the dyadic pattern of demand-withdraw in the parent-adolescent relationship was associated with low self-esteem and high substance use (i.e., alcohol and drugs) for both parents and adolescents. Global examinations of conflictual interactions between parents and early

adolescents are consistent with the work of Caughlin and colleagues as well. For instance, Branje (2008) conducted a study of conflict discussions of 30 dyads consisting of a mother and her 12-year-old daughter. Branje (2008) noted that when mothers and daughters perceived their relationship to be characterized by open communication, daughters were more actively engaged in conflict interactions whereas mothers were more passive. Additionally, high levels of variability in the dyadic interaction were associated with mothers and daughters perceiving one another as dominant in the relationship. Branje’s (2008) results, though not specific to the behaviors of demand and withdraw, suggest a pattern similar to that identified in earlier work of communication behavior during parent-adolescent conflict. Though previous efforts provide insight into the use of demands and withdrawal

within parent-adolescent conflict, evidence is limited regarding associations to episodic conflict outcomes. Considering, conflict is an emotional experience for individuals and that the enactment of conflict behaviors is often tied to one’s experience of various emotions (Jones, 2001); it is of interest to delineate the connection between demand and withdraw behaviors and subjective emotion experience within the context of parent-adolescent conflict.