Targeting couple and parent-child coercion to improve health behaviors

Amy M. Smith Slep, Richard E. Heyman, Danielle M. Mitnick, Michael F. Lorber, Theodore P. Beauchaine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This phase of the NIH Science of Behavior Change program emphasizes an “experimental medicine approach to behavior change,” that seeks to identify targets related to stress reactivity, self-regulation, and social processes for maximal effects on multiple health outcomes. Within this framework, our project focuses on interpersonal processes associated with health: coercive couple and parent-child conflict. Diabetes and poor oral health portend pain, distress, expense, loss of productivity, and even mortality. They share overlapping medical regimens, are driven by overlapping proximal health behaviors, and affect a wide developmental span, from early childhood to late adulthood. Coercive couple and parent-child conflict constitute potent and destructive influences on a wide range of adult and child health outcomes. Such interaction patterns give rise to disturbed environmental stress reactivity (e.g., disrupted sympathetic nervous and parasympathetic nervous systems) and a wide range of adverse health outcomes in children and adults, including dental caries, obesity, and diabetes-related metabolic markers. In this work, we seek to identify/develop/validate assays assessing coercion, identify/develop and test brief interventions to reduce coercion, and test whether changes in coercion trigger changes in health behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)82-91
Number of pages10
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
StatePublished - Feb 2018


  • Affect regulation
  • Coercion
  • Conflict
  • Couples
  • Health
  • Parenting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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