Self-images of selected groups of adopted and non-adopted adolescents

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Family functioning has been an important part of adolescent self-image formation, according to many family therapy theorists. The aspects of family functioning that are the most positive in influencing self-image formation have not been specifically diagnosed, particularly as they apply to adoptive and foster families. The present research tied together family adaptability, cohesion, and communication from the Circumplex Model with self-image and analyzed the effect these aspects of family functioning had on a subjective measure of self-image as reported by the adolescent. The sense of family satisfaction that the adolescent had was also measured, and it was compared with the self-image of the adolescent as was the number of previous foster care placements for those adolescents who had been in foster care prior to adoption or who were presently in foster care.

Fifty-five adolescents (12 adoptees, 18 in foster care, and 25 living with their biological families) were administered the Offer Self-Image Questionnaire, FACES III and the Parent-Adolescent Communication Scale. Hypotheses included: (a) adolescents across the three family types who were rated as extreme or mid-range on the cohesion and adaptability aspects of the Circumplex Model would have lower self-image scores than those who were rated as balanced; (b) adolescents who achieved a higher family satisfaction score (distance from the center of the Circumplex Model) would have a higher self-image score than those with a lower family satisfaction score; (c) adolescents who report higher levels of mother and father communication will have higher self-image scores than those with lower levels of communication; (d) adolescents with two or fewer foster care placements would have higher self-image scores than those with three or more placements.

Statistical significance was found when the mother communication was divided into high and low categories and compared in an analysis of variance across the three family groupings. Perceived family cohesion was also found to be statistically significant in an analysis of variance across the three family groupings, and the interaction of family type by family cohesion (balanced, mid-range, or extrane) across the groupings was also statistically significant. The other variables related to family functioning did not prove to be statistically significant.