School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Philosophy in Counselor Education and Supervision (PhD)


John Thomas


Parental Stress, Adolescent Externalizing Behavior, Family Functioning, Ethnicity, Multisystemic Therapy


Counseling | Counselor Education | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Parental stress is an expected phenomenon during the parenting of an adolescent. Higher levels of parental stress are associated with an adolescent with externalizing behavior. Parents are instrumental in the development of adolescents and are critical agents of change with youth problematic behavior. Family functioning is often determined in part by a parent’s ability to adequately respond and manage their adolescent’s behavior and their environment. Focusing on improving family relations has been known to positively impact both parent and adolescent. Multisystemic therapy is a well-known treatment for adolescent externalizing behavior and families of diverse ethnicities. Additional attention and resources examining the impact of family functioning on parental stress and adolescent externalizing behavior is lacking, including the role of ethnicity in the family. This study established the relationship between parental stress and adolescent externalizing behavior. This study found family ethnicity (African American, Caucasian and Latinos) to be a moderator between parental stress and adolescent externalizing behavior. Family functioning particularly family cohesion and not family adaptability was found to be a mediator between this relationship. Lastly, there were no significant differences between ethnic family’s pretest and posttest reporting of family functioning. The results, implications, limitations, and recommendations for future research and social advocacy was discussed, as they relate to therapists, supervisors, researchers, and counselor educators with the goal of enhancing treatment results for parents with parental stress, adolescents with externalizing behavior, and how family functioning across family ethnicity/ racial groups can be leveraged during times of heightened parental and psychosocial stress.