How teens who are at risk for suicide and who have conflict with parents characterize their parents' communicative behavior
To better understand how troubled teens perceive their parents' communicative behavior, 77 interviews with teens were analyzed. All of the teens met criteria for being at risk for suicide and all identified conflict with parents as a major stressor in their lives. The data analyzed were the teen's responses to questions posed during a semi-structured interview. The responses about the communicative relationship with parents were transcribed and analyzed using methods of ethnography of communication and discourse analysis. Findings focused on the teens' use of three linguistic devices---linguistic action verbials, extreme case formulations, direct reported speech---and the teens' perspectives on the consequences for them of their parents' communicative behavior. Linguistic action verbials (LAVs) that were prominent in the teens' discourse were "yell," "fight," "argue," "talk," "tell," and "get along/not get along." The analysis of the LAVs supported that the LAV selected by the teen was constitutive of the teen's social reality. The teens used extreme case formulations (ECFs) to characterize qualities of the LAVs, to reflect the emotional tension associated with the teens' perceptions of parents' communicative conduct, and as a way of marshaling support for the teen's position by "invoking a universal audience" of all other teens. The teens used direct reported speech (DRS) to recount a parent's words prompted by the teen's disclosure to the parent of suicide thoughts and behaviors. DRS gave the teen access to a painful event that allowed the teen to communicate the hurt of a parent's words without having to interpret (describe) the emotional effect it had. Part of the therapeutic effect of the interview may lie in the alignment with the interviewer around the re-telling of these speech events. The fourth major finding was that teens presented two constructs of effects of their parents' communicative behavior. One construct comprised negative emotional states they experienced---for example, depression, "feeling like I don't matter"---and second, what they wanted from parents---as a construct of caring and compassion. The findings are presented as concepts that can sensitize and inform the work of researchers and practitioners in the fields of both communication science and adolescent suicide.
- Communications