Restricted (Penn State Only)
Xia, Mengya
Graduate Program:
Human Development and Family Studies
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
February 18, 2019
Committee Members:
  • Gregory M. Fosco, Dissertation Advisor
  • Gregory M Fosco, Committee Chair
  • Bethany Cara Bray, Committee Member
  • Susan Marie Mchale, Committee Member
  • Erika Sell Lunkenheimer, Outside Member
  • Zita Oravecz, Committee Member
  • family dynamic
  • triadic family relationship
  • adolescent adjustment
Families are complex and dynamic systems and are critical contexts for adolescent development. Relationship structures (i.e., organization of multiple dyadic family relationships) and dynamics (i.e., change or fluctuations between structures over time) are two main aspects of families that depict essential information about the holistic functioning and changing processes in family systems, which has rarely been empirically tested. This dissertation aimed to (1) identify potential mother-father-adolescent (MFA) triadic relationship structures and dynamic configurations on a daily basis, and (2) further examine the implications of these MFA triadic dynamics on adolescent adjustment. Using a sample of 145 mother-father-headed two-parent families with daily diary data up to 21 days, a latent profile model on the day-level was used to exam possible mother-father-adolescent (MFA) triadic relationship structures across all families and all days. Then a multilevel latent profile model based on the solution of the day-level model was used to further identify potential subgroups of MFA triadic relationship dynamics at the between-family level. After modal assigning families into each MFA dynamic subgroup that they were most likely to belong to, the demographic and family conflict characteristics between subgroups were assessed and compared. Finally, I examined the associations between identified MFA triadic dynamics and six indicators of adolescent positive and negative adjustment, which acted as an initial step to study individual development in an integrative family dynamic system. In the day-level latent profile analysis, there were six MFA triadic relationship structures identified across all the families and all days: Cohesive, Mother-Centered, Adolescent-Centered, Mother-Adolescent Coalition, Disengaged, and Average structures. When considering the dynamic configurations of identified triadic structures for each family, four stable (families exhibited the same structure most days) and one changing (families exhibited meaningfully different structures across days) dynamic subgroups were found at the between-family level: Stable Cohesive, Stable Disengaged, Stable Mother-Adolescent Coalition, Stable Average, and Variable dynamics. Regarding characteristics of families with different MFA triadic dynamics, there were significant differences on parent relationship status, mother’s education level, family-level conflict, interparental conflict, and parent-adolescent conflict among families in the five identified dynamics. In terms of association between MFA triadic dynamics and adolescent adjustment, adolescents from different MFA triadic dynamics had significantly different levels of depression, anxiety, positive affect, life satisfaction, and a sense of purpose six month later. Strengths, limitation, future directions, and implications for intervention were discussed.