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2. Dating Status of American College Women as a Predictor of Interactional Patterns with Parents

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While the population studied for this preliminary investigation is small and limited primarily to girls from middle class backgrounds, it provides some relevant insights into the impact of dating status upon parent-daughter interaction. On every dimension of interaction as defined in this study, a higher percentage of those of dating status indicated less interaction with both parents in terms of the confiding process, communication, intensity of the relationship degree of attachment, parental influence over time, and seeking advice and guidance. Dating status was found to be associated with nearly all the types of interaction. Of those who were dating, a greater percentage than of those who were single, indicated that they seldom to never confided inner thoughts and feelings with mother, that the degree of attachment to mother during the last two years of college was less close, that the mother's opinions had been most influential for them during freshman and sophomore years, and that they depended on the mother a lot to not at all for advice. Such percentage differences for dating versus single status also showed up for interaction with fathers with the exception of one item. A greater percentage of those who were dating indicated that they communicated few to none of their personal problems to fathers. The chi square value for this difference is 9.035. This is in sharp contrast to the chi square value for mothers on this same item. It is interesting to note that there is a relative degree of consistency in these percentages for both statuses, "single" and "dating" especially on types of interaction with fathers. Table II suggests a number of ideas for the measurement of interaction in families with young adult offspring and for the analysis of dating status using longitudinal designs. What appears of interest in Table II is the possibility of developing a unidimensional interactional scale for the study of dating status as a predictor of interactional patterns. This table perhaps illustrates a change in interactional patterns with father for those college women occupying the status of dating. It shows that: (1) 64% seldom to never confided inner thoughts and feelings with father; (2) 64% communicated few to none of their personal problems to father; (3) 73% stated that the relationship had become less close during the last two years of their college experience; (4) 82 % indicated that their father's influence had been greatest during their freshman and sophomore years; and (5) 73% stated that they depended a little to not at all on fathers for advice. These percentages are contrasted with those for the women seniors who were single in the population studied. In Table II, for those who were single: (1) 79% sometimes to always confided inner thoughts and feelings with father; (2) 83% communicated some to all of their personal problems to father; (3) 79% stated that the relationship had become closer during the last two years of college; (4) 58% indicated that their fathers' influence still existed, i.e., that the father was influential in their junior years and in their senior years; and (5) 57% stated that they depended quite a bit to completely on their fathers for advice. These percentage differences are also noted for interaction with mothers especially on items A, C, and D. Table I shows that for those college women of dating status: (1) 55% seldom to never confided inner thoughts and feelings with mother; (2) 82% stated that the relationship had become less close during the last two years of college; and (3) 82% indicated that the mother was influential in freshman to sophomore years. All of these percentage differences are significant at the .05 level. Perhaps, as studies have shown, some of the differences for the various types of interaction for "single" versus "dating" statuses, with mothers, may reflect the involvement of mothers in expressive role relationships with their daughters despite these statuses. That is, in contrast to the role played by the father in families, mothers tend to continue a kind of social-emotional involvement in the lives of their offspring with each role-status change. Although the nature of interaction between parents and their young adult children obviously changes as one moves throughout the life cycle, it is the task of Family Sociology to determine which kinds of variables serve to speed up the process of interactional change and it is the suggestion of this brief inquiry that dating status may be a major predictor of changing interactional patterns with both parents. A more adequate conceptualization of dating status may be warranted in future studies. Further, the data suggest a number of questions and research hypotheses for students of sociology interested in status changes, general family interaction, and related areas. Space does not permit the presenting of these in discussion form. Three basic assumptions are therefore listed with the expectation that future systematic analyses will delve into these areas moreso than has been done in this brief exploratory investigation: 1. Dating status functions as a structural and emotional alternative to the middle class family. It may not be a complementary function but a total substitute. 2. Interaction with parents remains relatively constant if the offspring continue to occupy a "single" status, despite perhaps the age and sex roles and statuses of these offspring. 3. Dating status or courtship with its concomitant role changes is associated with a steady or progressive decline in various types of interaction with both parents, though the interactional change is more noticeable with mothers as a consequence of the expressive role relationship developed in earlier stages of childhood. Of particular importance is an adequate operational measure of the strategic dimensions of interaction within the family accompanying various role-status changes. The present study is offered only as an initial step in this direction and as such has a number of limitations. For example, the measure of the interactional dimensions was in terms of a limited number of variables. Secondly, the study consisted of a very small number of subjects and suggests the need for a much wider sampling of college women about to be launched into marital and career roles before conclusions can be drawn about other such populations. Nevertheless, it is hoped that the conception of interaction patterns and changes offered herein will bring forth suggestions which ultimately may produce more refined concepts and methods of study in the areas suggested and lead to a more exacting set of data pertaining to young adult-parent interaction especially in terms of differential statuses occupied by the young adult. Focusing upon dating status as a transitional position and a potential vacancy within the family may permit the development of a predictive model for this status as it relates to various types of interaction with mothers and fathers. It is suggested in the findings that dating status, whatever its nature and intensity, brings with it a number of emotional and structural changes in the middle class family and the various interactional sub-systems comprising the family complex. Using college women as a focal point has proved of value in further grasping the impact of dating status upon the various dimensions of interaction. Finally, the concept of interactional decline has been implicit in terms of how the items differentiate between single and dating college women and in terms of frequency and changes over time as shown in categories A-E of the two tables.


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