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31-12-2015 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 11/2016

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 11/2016

Trivariate Modeling of Interparental Conflict and Adolescent Emotional Security: An Examination of Mother–Father–Child Dynamics

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 11/2016
Rebecca Y. M. Cheung, E. Mark Cummings, Zhiyong Zhang, Patrick T. Davies


Recognizing the significance of interacting family subsystems, the present study addresses how interparental conflict is linked to adolescent emotional security as a function of parental gender. A total of 272 families with a child at 12.60 years of age (133 boys, 139 girls) were invited to participate each year for three consecutive years. A multi-informant method was used, along with trivariate models to test the associations among mothers, fathers, and their adolescent children’s behaviors. The findings from separate models of destructive and constructive interparental conflict revealed intricate linkages among family members. In the model of destructive interparental conflict, mothers and fathers predicted each other’s conflict behaviors over time. Moreover, adolescents’ exposure to negativity expressed by either parent dampened their emotional security. Consistent with child effects models, adolescent emotional insecurity predicted fathers’ destructive conflict behaviors. As for the model of constructive interparental conflict, fathers predicted mothers’ conflict behaviors over time. Adolescents’ exposure to fathers’ constructive conflict behaviors also enhanced their sense of emotional security. Consistent with child effects models, adolescent emotional security predicted mothers’ and fathers’ constructive conflict behaviors. These findings extended the family and the adolescent literature by indicating that family processes are multiidirectional, involving multiple dyads in the study of parents’ and adolescents’ functioning. Contributions of these findings to the understanding of interparental conflict and emotional security in adolescence are discussed.

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