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Article

Conflict in Family Communication  

John P. Caughlin and Emily Gerlikovski

Conflict is a common experience in families. Although conflicts can be intense, most conflicts in families are about mundane issues such as housework, social life, schoolwork, or hygiene. Families’ negotiations over even such mundane topics, however, have important implications. Through conflicts with other family members, children typically first learn about managing difficulties with others, and the skills they learn in such conflicts are important to their social lives beyond their families. Yet poorly managed conflicts that become more intense or personal can undermine the well-being of families and family members. Family conflicts are extremely complex, and understanding them requires analysis at multiple levels, including examining the individual family members, dyads and larger groups within the family, and the sociocultural context in which families are embedded. At the individual level, family members’ conflict behaviors (e.g., exhibiting positive affect vs. negative affect), conflict skills (e.g., whether they are able to resolve problems), and cognitions (e.g., whether they make generous attributions about other family members' intent during disputes) all are important for understanding the impact of family conflicts. Examining conflict from the dyadic and polyadic levels recognizes that there are important features of conflict that are only apparent with a broader perspective. Dyadic and polyadic constructs include patterns of behavior, conflict outcomes that apply to all family members involved, and beliefs shared by family members. There are also particular types of relationships within families that have salient conflicts which have drawn considerable scholarly attention, such as parent–child or parent–adolescent conflicts, conflicts between siblings, marital conflicts, and conflicts between co-parents. In addition, families experience various transitions, and the life course of families influences conflict. Some key periods for conflict are the early years of marriage, the period of launching children and empty nest, and a family member navigating the end of life. Finally, family conflicts occur in a larger sociocultural context in which societal events and conditions affect family conflict. Such contextual factors include broad social structures (e.g., societal-level power dynamics between men and women), financial conditions, different co-cultural groups within a country, cross-cultural differences, and major events such as the COVID-19 pandemic that have direct effects on families and also elicit dramatic social responses that affect families. Despite the complexities, it is important to understand family conflict because of its implications for the health and well-being of families and family members.

Article

Recruiting Opinion Leaders for the United Kingdom ASSIST Programme  

Jo Holliday, Suzanne Audrey, Rona Campbell, and Laurence Moore

Addictive behaviors with detrimental outcomes can quickly become embedded in daily life. It therefore remains a priority to prevent or modify these health behaviors early in the life course. Diffusion theory suggests that community norms are shaped by credible and influential “opinion leaders” who may be characterized by their values and traits, competence or expertise, and social position. With respect to health behaviors, opinion leaders can assume a variety of roles, including changing social norms and facilitating behavioral change. There is considerable variation in the methods used to identify opinion leaders for behavior change interventions, and these may have differential success. However, despite the potential consequences for intervention success, few studies have documented the processes for identifying, recruiting, and training opinion leaders to promote health, or have discussed the characteristics of those identified. One study that has acknowledged this is the effective UK-based ASSIST smoking-prevention program. The ASSIST Programme is an example of a peer-led intervention that has been shown to be successful in utilizing opinion leaders to influence health behaviors in schools. A “whole community” peer nomination process to identify opinion leaders underwent extensive developmental and piloting work prior to being administered in a randomized trial context. Influential students were identified through the use of three simple questions and trained as “peer supporters” to disseminate smoke-free messages through everyday conversations with their peers. In response to a need to understand the contribution of various elements of the intervention, and the degree to which these achieve their aim, a comprehensive assessment of the nomination process was conducted following intervention implementation. The nomination process was successful in identifying a diverse group of young people who represented a variety of social groups, and whom were predominantly considered suitable by their peers. The successful outcome of this approach demonstrates the importance of paying close attention to the design and development of strategies to identify opinion leaders. Importantly, the involvement of young people during the development phase may be key to increasing the effectiveness of peer education that relies on young people taking the lead role.

Article

Active Involvement Interventions in Health and Risk Messaging  

Kathryn Greene, Smita C. Banerjee, Anne E. Ray, and Michael L. Hecht

Results of national epidemiologic surveys indicate that substance use rates among adolescents remain relatively steady or even show slight declines; however, some substance use rates, such as electronic cigarettes, are actually rising. Thus, the need for efficacious drug prevention efforts in the United States remains high. Active Involvement (AI) interventions are a promising avenue for preventing and reducing adolescent substance use, and they create opportunities for adolescents to experience a core feature of engagement that is common to these interventions, such as producing videos, posters, or radio ads; or generating themes and images for messages such as posters. Existing interventions grounded in theories of Active Involvement include programs delivered face-to-face and via e-learning platforms. Narrative Engagement Theory and the Theory of Active Involvement guide the components of change in AI interventions. Youth develop message content during participation in Active Involvement interventions. Advanced analytic models can be applied to address new research questions related to the measure of components of AI interventions.

Article

Sensation Seeking  

Nancy Grant Harrington

Sensation seeking is a biologically based personality trait that is characterized by the need to seek a variety of sensations and experiences and the willingness to take risks to achieve them. There is a large volume of literature on sensation seeking that delineates important conceptual and operational distinctions, including several prominent measures of sensation seeking. Issues related to research design and data analysis include whether researchers treat sensation seeking as an independent or dependent variable, use total scale versus subscale scores in analyses, treat scores as continuous or grouped variables, and consider demographic variables in their analyses. Research may relate sensation seeking to a range of behaviors, from maladaptive behaviors such as substance use and risky sex to more neutral or even adaptive behaviors such as preferences for music and art or preferences for certain careers. Research may establish a genetic basis for sensation seeking and/or associate sensation seeking with neurological and physiological responsiveness. Research also explores the associations of sensation seeking to perceptions of risk, as well as the sex and age of individuals and groups in an international context.

Article

Substance Abuse Prevention Message Generation: Engaging Adolescents in Health Message Planning and/or Production of Health Promotion Messages  

Smita C. Banerjee and Kathryn Greene

Adolescent substance use remains a significant public health challenge, with recent approaches to address these problems including actively engaging adolescents in message planning and/or production as a prevention strategy. There are two benefits of this active involvement strategy. First, engaging adolescents in message planning or producing substance prevention messages is a form of participatory research that results in participant-generated messages for use in future intervention efforts. This participatory form of research is increasingly common in a wide range of topics and populations, particularly disenfranchised or stigmatized groups. It is important to focus on the second benefit of engaging adolescents in message planning and prevention: the effect of engaging in planning or producing substance prevention messages on the adolescents themselves. If done properly, the process of engaging adolescents in planning (or producing) anti-substance messages can provide longer-term benefits of delaying onset of substance use (strengthening resistance) as well as changing patterns for those already using. Some examples of this strategy exist with media literacy, although applied with a great deal of variability. The increased popularity of these planning/production approaches requires greater explication of how, when, and why they produce effects for participants. Two different theoretical perspectives address this active involvement intervention approach: narrative engagement theory and the theory of active involvement. Beyond these theories, sensation seeking is positioned as a moderator to explore for active involvement intervention effects.

Article

keepin’ It REAL”: A Case History of a Drug Prevention Intervention  

Michael L. Hecht and Michelle Miller-Day

Adolescent substance use and abuse has long been the target of public health prevention messages. These messages have adopted a variety of communication strategies, including fear appeals, information campaigns, and social marketing/branding strategies. A case history of keepin’ it REAL, a narrative-based substance abuse prevention intervention that exemplifies a translational research approach, involves theory development testing, formative and evaluation research, dissemination, and assessment of how the intervention is being used in the field by practitioners. The project, which started as an attempt to test the notion that the performance of personal narratives was an effective intervention strategy, has since produced two theories, an approach to implementation science that focused on communication processes, and, of course, a school-based curriculum that is now the most widely disseminated drug prevention program in the world. At the core of the keepin’ it REAL program are the narratives that tell the story of how young people manage their health successfully through core skills or competencies, such as decision-making, risk assessment, communication, and relationship skills. Narrative forms not only the content of curriculum (e.g., what is taught) but also the pedagogy (e.g., how it is taught). This has enabled the developers to step inside the social worlds of youth from early childhood through young adulthood to describe how young people manage problematic health situations, such as drug offers. This knowledge was motivated by the need to create curricula that recount stories rather than preaching or scaring, that re-story health decisions and behaviors by providing skills that enable people to live healthy, safe, and responsible lives. Spin-offs from the main study have led to investigations of other problematic health situations, such as vaccination decisions and sexual pressure, in order to address crucial public health issues, such as cancer prevention and sex education, through community partnerships with organizations like D.A.R.E. America, 4-H clubs, and Planned Parenthood.