Skip to main content
Adolescent Ego Development Within the Family: Family Styles and Family Sequences
International Journal of Behavioral Development (1991)
  • Sally I. Powers, University of Massachusetts - Amherst
We describe a series of analyses that were carried out using the Constraining and Enabling Coding System (CECS). This scheme was specially constructed to identify family interactions conceptually relevant to adolescent ego development. We present results based on the application of these scales to observations of 80 families, consisting of two parents and an adolescent drawn from closely matched high school and psychiatric populations. The families are predominantly upper middle and middle class. Each family member completed the Loevinger Sentence Completion Test and then participated in a revealed-differences task, using responses to Kohlberg Moral Dilemmas as discussion stimuli. Transcripts of these audiorecorded discussions form the database for our family analyses. The family analyses were of two general types. First, we examined relations between family style and the ego development of each family member. The style analyses were based on aggregate scores for each of the enabling or constraining behaviours. After controlling for patient status, adolescent age, and family social class, adolescent and parent ego development scores contributed to explained variance in these family style behaviours. Parental style behaviours, especially of mothers, were also significantly associated with parent ego development as well as adolescent ego development. We then examined family sequences in terms of their links with adolescent ego development. Through these process-oriented analyses, we discovered that the intensity of turn taking and reciprocal enabling (mutual enabling) interactions between mothers and adolescents were significantly enhanced by the ego development of the mother. Such associations between reciprocal interactions and parental ego development were not present for mutual enabling pairings between fathers and adolescents. In our discussion we consider the importance of adding these sequence analyses to our studies, as one more way of exploring relations between family factors and adolescent development.
Publication Date
Publisher Statement
DOI: 10.1177/016502549101400204
Citation Information
Sally I. Powers. "Adolescent Ego Development Within the Family: Family Styles and Family Sequences" International Journal of Behavioral Development Vol. 14 (1991)
Available at: