Family Cohesion and Enmeshment: Different Constructs, Different Effects

  • Barber B
  • Buehler C
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Abstract

Some past conceptualizations in family research have synthesized the constructs of family cohesion and enmeshment by placing enmeshment at the high extreme end of cohesion. In this article, we argue that, theoretically, the 2 are different con- structs-cohesion is a measure of supportive in- teraction, and enmeshment is a measure of psy- chological control. We examine this hypothesis by testing the associations between adolescent re- ports of family cohesion and enmeshment and several measures of adolescent problem behav- iors using a sample of 471 students in preadoles- cence and early and middle adolescence from a suburb of a city in the South. Results show that cohesion is associated negatively with both inter- nalizing and externalizing adolescent problem be- haviors. Enmeshment is related positively with youth problems, and more strongly with internal- izing problems. Furthermore, different patterns of interaction emerge among the 2 family variables and the adolescents' grade in school and se

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Authors

  • Brian K. Barber

  • Cheryl Buehler

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