Observed parent–adolescent coalitions and family hostilities during family discussions: Associations with marital aggression

Michelle C. Ramos, Reout Arbel, Adela C. Timmons, Aubrey J. Rodriguez, Gayla Margolin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study investigated bidirectional associations between observed parent–youth coalitions—wherein one parent and a child align themselves against the other parent—and family hostilities as they evolved in real-time during triadic family conflict discussions. Participants were 102 families with an adolescent child (50% girls, Mage = 15.3 years, SD = 0.8). Using time-lagged, multilevel models, we tested immediate, temporal influences from hostility (within marital and mother–youth and father–youth relationships) to parent–youth coalitions and vice versa. Guided by sensitization theories, we also investigated whether a history of marital aggression moderated these links. Results indicated multiple concurrent links supporting the interconnectedness of cross generational coalitions and angry, critical exchanges within multiple family relationships. Moreover, time-linked effects demonstrated that hostility within both the marital and parent–adolescent domains preceded subsequent coalitions, and also that coalitions preceded hostility, particularly in the parent–adolescent domain. Findings further demonstrated that marital aggression moderates temporal associations between fathers’ marital hostility and father–youth coalitions. These patterns highlight the dynamic links between hostilities and coalitions, how such patterns spill over across family subsystems, and how these two insidious influences in parents’ interactions with their adolescent youth may mutually reinforce each other. This study informs intervention efforts by identifying patterns and sequences of family hostilities surrounding parent–youth coalitions during adolescence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1305-1323
Number of pages19
JournalFamily Process
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Family Process Institute.


  • Adolescent
  • Alliances
  • Cross-Generational Coalitions
  • Family Conflict
  • Marital Aggression
  • Triadic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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