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Using a family systems approach, this study investigated differences in interparental conflict behavior in dyadic versus triadic contexts, and considered the potential moderating roles of interparental conflict history and parental depression symptoms. The community sample included 74 couples with an infant between 6 and 14 months of age. Behavioral observations were made of parents during interparental conflict resolution tasks. Parents were observed in both a dyadic context with just the two of them and in a triadic context with their infants present. Task order was counterbalanced across families. Multiple parental conflict behaviors, emotions, and resolution were coded based on the behavioral observations. Parents self-reported on their conflict history and depression symptoms. Mothers and fathers displayed less depressive conflict in their infants’ presence versus absence and mothers additionally displayed decreased constructive conflict when their infants were present, but neither parent differed in their expressions of destructive conflict across contexts, indicating an overall lack of shielding children from conflict. Both interparental conflict history and parental depression symptoms moderated associations between parents’ conflict behavior and the conflict context for fathers and mothers. Results supported family systems theory’s notions that marital subsystem boundaries can be eroded as a function of family stress, allowing interparental hostility or depression symptoms to spill over into triadic family interactions. Implications for family therapists and community parent education programs are discussed.
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- Interparental Conflicts in Dyadic and Triadic Contexts: Parental Depression Symptoms and Conflict History Predict Differences
Tina D. Du Rocher Schudlich
Briana Du Nann
- Springer US