What makes for responsive family interactions? Disentangling individual, family-level, and socioeconomic contributions

Nina Sokolovic, George Leckie, Dillon T Browne, Jennifer M Jenkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Families function best, and children benefit the most, when familial interactions are characterized by responsivity-an understanding and consideration of other people's thoughts and feelings. How responsive people are during interactions with others is a product of individual propensities, observed family norms, and unique relationship patterns, though these influences are often hard to disentangle. In the current study, we used a Social Relations Model (SRM) to parse out the extent to which being responsive during family interactions is attributable to individual traits or familial tendencies. Mothers, fathers, and two children each interacted with every other person in the family (N = 198 families) and each person's behavior was coded for the level of responsivity they displayed toward their interactional partner. Data were modeled using a multilevel formulation of the SRM. Between 15% and 30% of the variance in individual's responsivity was attributable to stable traits, with parents tending to be more consistent across all interactional partners than their children. On average, 14% of the variance in responsivity was shared across all members of a given family. Income explained 28% of family-level variance, while other family characteristics, including parent education, parent mental health, interparental conflict, and household chaos, explained little to no variance. Furthermore, it was found that parents contributed more to the family tone of responsivity than did their children. These results provide new insights into what makes family members responsive toward one other and suggest there are likely benefits of providing supports across individual-, family-, and financial-levels to enhance family responsivity. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1149-1159
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Issue number8
Early online date18 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

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© 2021 American Psychological Association


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