This study extends psychological reactance theory (PRT) to family caregiving by exploring autonomy-threatening messages adult child caregivers use to gain compliance from older adult parents. Results of focus groups and interviews with older adult care recipients (Study One) and caregivers (Study Two) corroborated three types of autonomy-threatening messages, which were used to test PRT (Study Three). Older adults (N = 281) were randomly assigned a caregiving message and answered reactance-related survey questions. Results supported serial mediation: relative to an autonomy-supporting message, two types of autonomy-threatening messages (i.e., offering directives, expressing doubt) triggered greater freedom threat, which amplified reactance. In turn, greater reactance elicited more negative attitudes, which was linked to lower behavioral intention. Results offer implications for older adults’ experience of reactance and family caregiving communication.
Ball, H., Weber, K., Goodboy, A. K., Kunkle, C. E., Lilly, C. L., & Myers, S. A. (2022). A mixed methodological examination of older adults’ psychological reactance toward caregiving messages from their adult children. Communication Monographs. https://doi.org/10.1080/03637751.2022.2128197
Taylor & Francis
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