The purpose of this study was to examine if the longitudinal associations between father–adolescent conflict and both externalizing and internalizing symptoms in youth were moderated by fathers’ residential status (i.e., whether or not he lived in the home) and type of residential father (i.e., biological or step).
Adolescents (N = 146) completed a measure about conflict with their father or stepfather in 8th and 9th grade. At the same time points, mothers completed measures about the youths’ externalizing and internalizing symptoms.
The association between 8th grade conflict and 9th grade externalizing symptoms was moderated by fathers’ residential status. Conflict with fathers in 8th grade was positively associated with 9th grade externalizing symptoms when youths resided with their father (biological and stepfathers were included); in contrast, higher levels of father–adolescent conflict were associated with lower levels of subsequent externalizing symptoms when fathers did not live with the youth. Externalizing symptoms in 8th grade did not significantly predict father–adolescent conflict in grade 9. Regarding internalizing symptoms, the association between father–adolescent conflict in 8th grade and internalizing symptoms in 9th grade was moderated by father’s residential status; conflict predicted higher levels of internalizing symptoms when the biological father lived elsewhere. Higher levels of 8th grade internalizing symptoms also significantly predicted greater conflict between adolescents and their fathers in 9th grade for residential fathers only.
The associations among adolescent emotional and behavioral outcomes and paternal-child relationship qualities vary with symptom type and family structures and, thus, warrant further comprehensive study.