05-01-2021 | Original Paper
The Implications of Early Marital Conflict for Children’s Development
Gepubliceerd in: Journal of Child and Family Studies | Uitgave 1/2021Log in om toegang te krijgen
Although negative associations between the frequency and intensity of marital conflict and children’s adjustment are well documented, less is known about how parents’ conflict styles are related to children’s developmental outcomes. The present study examines whether exposure to different types of parents’ conflict styles, during a child’s first year of life, is related to children’s behavioral outcomes in the first grade. Parents’ conflict resolution styles (CRSs) and child outcomes were examined in a sample of 150 working-class, first-time parents and their children. It was hypothesized that infants’ exposure to more conflictual conflict resolution styles would predict poorer child outcomes over time. Results revealed that parents’ unique conflict styles mattered in unique ways for children’s development, but also that the interaction of parents’ styles, their dyadic conflict patterns, was also related to child outcomes. Results revealed that higher levels of parents’ depressive or angry CRSs in the first year predicted more internalizing problems for children, while constructive CRS was related to fewer externalizing problems. However, gender effects showed that higher rates of parental compliance during conflict were related to more internalizing problems in girls. Furthermore, dyadic results revealed that having one parent angrily engage in conflict and the other parent - withdraw, comply or angrily engage – was related to more externalizing problems for boys. Overall, results showed that parents’ different conflict resolution styles, during a child’s first year of life, are related to their children’s developmental outcomes 6 years later. These results emphasize children’s early vulnerability to parental conflict and hold implications for clinicians and practitioners.