The Counterintuitive Psychological Benefits of Intergenerational Discrepancies in Family Prioritization for Jamaican Adolescent–Parent Dyads


  • Gail M. Ferguson is now at the Department of Human and Community Development, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL.
  • Appreciation is extended to the participating Jamaican families and school staff for their generosity. Support for data collection was provided in part by Bowling Green State University Dissertation Funds. An earlier version of this article was presented as a poster at the 2010 Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research on Adolescence, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Gail M. Ferguson, Department of Human and Community Development, Doris Kelley Christopher Hall, MC-081, 904 West Nevada Street, Room 2015, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL 61801. E-mail:


The current study tests a prediction of Relational Discrepancy Theory (RDT; i.e., emotional distress will not accompany discrepancies in hierarchical relationships) for family obligations discrepancies among adolescent–parent dyads in Jamaica, a moderately collectivistic and hierarchical society. Ninety-five dyads reported psychological adjustment and discrepancies in family prioritization (i.e., value priority placed on family vs. other life domains). Results supported RDT and replicated recent work with Caribbean immigrants in Europe. Unlike findings in individualistic and egalitarian societies, discrepancies were not an emotional liability for Jamaican adolescents but were associated with fewer depressive symptoms and higher life satisfaction. Furthermore, Jamaican parents benefitted psychologically when adolescents prioritized family highly but may have been unaware of the emotional risks to their teenagers of matching parental expectations.