Mexican American Adolescent Couples Communicating About Conflict: An Integrated Developmental and Cultural Perspective

Heidi Adams Rueda, Lela Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Using observational methods on a small sample of committed Mexican American couples (N=10, ages 15-17, M length of relationship = 26.5 months), we describe and categorize developmental and cultural communication patterns concerning the negotiation of conflict issues. Videotaped dyadic interactions were transcribed and qualitatively coded using iterative confirmatory and exploratory approaches. Quantitative indicators confirmed the categorization of couples into discourse styles, as well as elucidated the contexts and extent of overlap of developmental and cultural themes. Nine of ten couples had a serious discussion of relational conflict issues, lasting a majority of the time allotted (14 minutes). Five couples’ conversations were consumed by blaming/criticizing, interrupted by small stretches of one-sided taking of responsibility, suggestions, or voiced intentions for new behaviors to resolve the conflict. The remaining four couples enhanced their understanding of the relationship through mutual and respectful exploration of their chosen conflict issues. Culturally salient themes were identified, including adaptive machismo, familismo, and caballero care. The latter denoted bids for demonstration of care or affection from a girl on behalf of her partner, which together with discussion of family-oriented topics, contextualized the content of conflict discussions. Adolescent boys demonstrated adaptive machismo traits, elucidating how conflict negotiation itself was influenced by cultural values. Taken together, findings point to the importance of viewing Mexican American adolescents’ negotiation of conflict in light of cultural values including commitment to the relationship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)375-403
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Adolescent Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2016


  • Latinos
  • adolescence
  • culture
  • intimacy
  • qualitative methods
  • romantic relationships

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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