Cooperation And Competition In Family, Pseudo-Family And Peer Triads

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Child and Family Studies


George E. Bodine


Families & family life, Personal relationships, Sociology

Subject Categories

Family, Life Course, and Society


A descriptive experimental approach was utilized to explore three aspects of cooperation and competition in the family. The first goal of the study was to describe differences among family members in amount and nature of cooperation displayed when faced with a series of cooperation or competition choices. The second goal was to describe differences in cooperative behavior between families, family-like triads and peer triads on the same cooperation vs. competition task. The third goal was to explore the efficacy of the games model of descriptive study as a means of exploring cooperation and competition in the family.

In addition, literature is reviewed from a range of family approaches. Among the areas reviewed are structural, interactional, historical, developmental, clinical and small group experimental views. Implications of these areas of literature on the games model approach to the family are drawn.

In the study itself, fifty-four individuals comprising eighteen, three member families constituted the sample. These families were drawn from two sub-populations. One was a group of Junior High School students from a Syracuse, N.Y. suburb, and the other was a group of families identified by pastors of two Syracuse area churches. Nine families participated from each sub-group.

A Prisoner's Dilemma style, mixed-motive game was developed for use with triads. In this game participants performed a series of trials, each of which offered the choice of cooperating with other participants for moderate mutual gain or competing for maximal personal gain at the expense of others. The choices were presented in the context of a game in which monetary rewards were offered. The method of the game was described to participants but the goal of exploring cooperation was not made explicit. In addition, questionnaire data were collected germane to methodological issues.

Results indicated that family members in this sample did differ in amounts of cooperation displayed. Specifically, Husbands displayed more cooperation than Wives of Children. Families as a group displayed more cooperation than did family-like groups or peer triads. Questionnaire data indicated that the games model can be useful in exploring cooperation and competition in the family. In an epilogue, methodological issues are discussed, implications and possible extrapolations from the data are posited and suggestions for future research are presented.


Surface provides description only. Full text is available to ProQuest subscribers. Ask your Librarian for assistance.