Triadic family structures and their day-to-day dynamics from an adolescent perspective: A multilevel latent profile analysis

Mengya Xia, Bethany C. Bray, Gregory M. Fosco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Relationship structure (patterns of relative closeness among multiple family members) and dynamics (changes in relationship structures overtime) are two main aspects of family system functioning, yet empirical tests of these concepts lag behind theory. Recent growth in advanced methods for complex data structures makes it possible to empirically capture structures and dynamics within multiple family relationships overtime. To answer how relationship structure may fluctuate from day to day, this study used multilevel latent profile analysis (MLPA) as an innovative and feasible method to capture mother–father–adolescent (MFA) relationship structures and dynamics on a daily basis. Using daily adolescent reports of mother–father (MF), mother–adolescent (MA), and father–adolescent (FA) closeness from 144 two-parent families for up to 21 days, we identified six day-level MFA structures: Cohesive (33% of days; three close dyads), Mother-Centered (9%; closer MF, average MA, less close FA), Adolescent-Centered (4%; less close MF, closer MA and FA), MA-Coalition (3%; closer MA, less close MF and FA), Disengaged (23%; three less close dyads), and Average (28%; three approximately average dyads). We identified five types of MFA dynamics at the family level: Stable Cohesive (35% of families; exhibited Cohesive structure most days), Stable Disengaged (20%; Disengaged structure most days), Stable MA-Coalition (3%; MA-Coalition structure most days), Stable Average (24%; Average structure most days), and Variable (17%; varied among multiple structures). Methodologically, daily diary designs and MLPA can be useful tools to empirically examine concrete hypotheses of complex, non-linear processes in family systems. Substantive and methodological implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1341-1357
Number of pages17
JournalFamily Process
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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