Family Communication Project

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Principal Investigator: Mark Cummings, Ph.D., University of Notre Dame

Co-Investigators: Brad Faircloth, Ph.D., Department of Health and Human Services, Family, Infant and Preschool Program; Jennifer Cummings, Ph.D., University of Notre Dame

The Family Communication Project is an ongoing prevention program that fosters better interpersonal relations, especially around matters of everyday sources of conflict, between the parents and between parents and their adolescent. The project, funded by the William T. Grant Foundation in 2007, aims to include 150 families, with data collection on-going.

The primary goal of the Family Communication Project: Tune In and Listen Up! is to strengthen family relationships by providing parents and adolescents with research-based information and communication skills to increase constructive conflict behaviors and decrease destructive conflict behaviors used in family interactions. A secondary goal of this project is to provide an empirically valid test for the effectiveness of the education program, based on a randomized clinical trial design.

This program extends past work by incorporating an adolescent curriculum in addition to a curriculum for parents, which has already received empirical support (Cummings et al., 2008). The parent curriculum includes an educational component that addresses four content areas: marital conflict’s effects on the marriage; marital conflict’s effects on the child; adolescent developmental issues and parent-adolescent conflict; and family security. The adolescent component shares many of the tenets of the adult curriculum but employs a more general perspective on conflict issues that are pertinent for teens including peer conflict, respecting parents, and developing effective communication skills. Another aspect of the program, communication training, allows families to practice their newly acquired skills in a one-on-one setting.

The program incorporates innovative and interactive techniques for conveying the material to promote the retention and application of the program content including Nintendo’s Wii, movie clips, and physical interaction. The randomized-design supports rigorous multiple group/curriculum comparisons and allows for an empirical examination of the specific elements of program effectiveness (i.e. curriculum materials, inclusion of the adolescent in the communication training sessions).

For additional information, please contact Jessica Likens at 574-631-6009 or email