Parent-adolescent communication in foster, intercountry adoptive and biological Italian families: gender and generational differences.

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There is a paucity of studies aiming at comparing how parents and children in different family structures cope with the challenges settled down by the adolescence transition; in particular, there are few studies aimed at comparing adoptive and foster families. In order to partially fill this gap, the principal aims of the present study were to verify whether there are differences in parent-child communication among foster, intercountry adoptive and biological families according to the adolescents¿ gender and to compare the perceptions of parents and adolescents concerning parent-child communication. Data were elaborated on two levels: a generational level (adolescent¿s and his/her parents¿ perceptions among the three family groups) and a dyadic level (mother-child and father-child perceptions). The sample was composed of 276 Italian families with adolescents aged between 11 and 17 (81 foster, 98 international adoptive and 97 biological families). Subjects (mothers, fathers and children) filled out a questionnaire including the Parent-Adolescent Communication Scale (Barnes and Olson, 1985). Results highlighted that in foster families parent-child communication showed more difficulties both from the adolescent¿s point of view and from the parents¿ one. Whereas adoptive adolescents assessed a more positive communication with both their parents than their peers living in biological and foster families did. At a dyadic level, some differences emerged among the three groups. In biological families, a more pronounced distance emerged between parents and children. In adoptive families, father and adolescent share more similar perceptions, whereas it emerged a significant discrepancy between mother and child. A higher level of perceptual congruence between adolescents and parents was found in foster families. Gender differences also turned up: mothers experienced a more open communication with their children than fathers did, and adolescents and above all females communicated better with their mothers than with their fathers in all three family groups.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-45
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • adolescence
  • adoptive families
  • foster families
  • gender
  • generation
  • parent-child communication


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