Patterns and Levels of Engagement and Conflict Development and Member Outcome in Adolescent Counseling Groups

Dennis M. Kivlighan, Li fei Wang*, Meifen Wei, Evelyn Yan Yi Koay, Yu Ling Hung, Martin Kivlighan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: We investigated whether all groups follow the same developmental pattern or if groups differ in their developmental patterns. We also explored whether group development (changes in engagement and conflict) or overall ratings (average of engagement and conflict) are related to group member outcomes. Method: Participants were 219 Taiwanese children and adolescents across 37 eight-session groups. Cluster analysis of group-centered, longitudinal ratings of engagement and conflict identified groups with different patterns of development. In a multilevel analysis, the patterns were used to predict assessments (pregroup, Session 4, Session 8, and 4-week follow-up) of emotional cultivation and basic psychological needs satisfaction, which were nested within group members, who were nested within groups. Results: Three patterns of group development were identified: (a) ideal group development (increasing engagement and low–high–low conflict), (b) minimal group development (average and nonchanging ratings of engagement and conflict), and (c) initial resistance (high–low–low conflict and low–average–average engagement). The members of groups that followed the ideal group development, relative to groups with the other developmental patterns, experienced greater growth in their emotional cultivation and basic psychological needs satisfaction. The ideal developmental pattern was particularly effective when average engagement (mean for Sessions 1, 4, and 8) was moderate and average conflict (mean for Sessions 1, 4, and 8) was low. Conclusion: First, all groups do not follow the same developmental pattern suggested by MacKenzie (1997). Second, these patterns are associated with differential member outcome depending on the groups’ average level of conflict across sessions. Because the ideal group development pattern was associated with member improvement, especially in the context of moderate engagement and conflict, group leaders should track the development of engagement and conflict in their groups. Leaders should intervene to moderate conflict in groups that have initially high levels of conflict and actively encourage engagement throughout the group and some conflict in middle sessions in groups that are failing to development.

Original languageEnglish
JournalGroup Dynamics
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024


  • cluster analysis
  • emotional cultivation or regulation
  • group climate
  • group counseling and psychotherapy
  • psychological needs satisfaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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