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Blended family resilience: communication practices in positive adult half sibling relationships

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Blended families including half siblings (brothers/sisters who share only one biological parent, most likely a product of divorce and remarriage) are becoming increasingly prevalent in Western societies. Studies have determined the negative outcomes of sharing only one biological parent on

Blended families including half siblings (brothers/sisters who share only one biological parent, most likely a product of divorce and remarriage) are becoming increasingly prevalent in Western societies. Studies have determined the negative outcomes of sharing only one biological parent on familial relationships, but less so on how half siblings may be resilient in the wake of restructuration and cultivate positive relationships overtime and into adulthood. This study applied a systems and resilience perspective to understand how blended family structure influences this unique sibling dyad. This research includes two studies. First, seventeen older half siblings who define their current sibling relationship as positive participated in a retrospective turning points interview. The second study required sixteen additional participants to keep a two-week daily diary on their communication with immediate family members, including half siblings. These two studies combined shed light on the typical communication practices between positive half siblings, including which behaviors contribute to prosocial relational sibling maintenance. Results detailed 23 prosocial relational maintenance behaviors. The maintenance behaviors positivity, joint activities, openness, and parental intervention were most significant in contributing to a positive half sibling relationship. Three novel maintenance behaviors (parental intervention, awareness of maturity, and mentoring behavior) were also identified to contribute to existing maintenance literature. Theoretical and practical implications for scholars and practitioners alike are discussed.

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2018

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Equine Assisted Learning: An Evidence-Based Intervention for Families

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Background: It is estimated that 50% of all mental illness arises prior to age 14, an incident attributed in part to disruptions and imbalances within the family system. Equine assisted learning is a complementary and alternative approach to family therapy

Background: It is estimated that 50% of all mental illness arises prior to age 14, an incident attributed in part to disruptions and imbalances within the family system. Equine assisted learning is a complementary and alternative approach to family therapy which is being used increasingly to promote mental health in both adults and children. This study sought to build and deliver an evidence-based, family-centered equine assisted learning program aimed at promoting family function, family satisfaction and child social-emotional competence, and to measure its acceptability and preliminary effect.

Method: Twenty families with children 10 years and older were recruited to participate in a 3-week equine assisted learning program at a therapeutic riding center in Phoenix, Arizona. Sessions included groundwork activities with horses used to promote life skills using experiential learning theory. The study design included a mixed-method quasi-experimental one-group pretest posttest design using the following mental health instruments: Devereaux Student Strengths Assessment, Brief Family Assessment Measure (3 dimensions), and Family Satisfaction Scale to measure child social-emotional competence, family function, and family satisfaction, respectively. Acceptability was determined using a Likert-type questionnaire with open-ended questions to gain a qualitative thematic perspective of the experience.

Results: Preliminary pretest and posttest comparisons were statistically significant for improvements in family satisfaction (p = 0.001, M = -5.84, SD = 5.63), all three domains of family function (General Scale: p = 0.005, M = 6.84, SD = 9.20; Self-Rating Scale: p = 0.050, M = 6.53, SD = 12.89; and Dyadic Relationship Scale: p = 0.028, M = 3.47, SD = 7.18), and child social-emotional competence (p = 0.015, M = -4.05, SD 5.95). Effect sizes were moderate to large (d > 0.5) for all but one instrument (Self-Rating Scale), suggesting a considerable magnitude of change over the three-week period. The intervention was highly accepted among both children and adults. Themes of proximity, self-discovery, and regard for others emerged during evaluation of qualitative findings. Longitudinal comparisons of baseline and 3-month follow-up remain in-progress, a topic available for future discussion.

Discussion: Results help to validate equine assisted learning as a valuable tool in the promotion of child social-emotional intelligence strengthened in part by the promotion of family function and family satisfaction. For mental health professionals, these results serve as a reminder of the alternatives that are available, as well as the importance of partnerships within the community. For therapeutic riding centers, these results help equine professionals validate their programs and gain a foothold within the scientific community. Additionally, they invite future riding centers to follow course in incorporating evidence into their programs and examining new directions for growth within the mental health community.

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2019-05-02