University of Notre Dame
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Dimensions of marital conflict in the home, parental psychological symptoms, and child adjustment: A family-wide investigation

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posted on 2004-10-01, 00:00 authored by Lauren Mackenzie Papp
Participants included 116 families (i.e., mothers, fathers, and a target child between the ages of 8 and 16) recruited from the community who completed detailed records of marital conflict situations in the home. Participants were part of a larger, multi-wave study concerned with testing pathways among family processes of interparental differences, parent-child relationships, psychological well-being of family members, and child development. The current dissertation study was undertaken to address three broad, interrelated questions about the family-wide role of day-to-day marital conflict in the home. The first question investigated linkages between spouses' psychological symptoms and ratings of marital conflict expressions in the home. Results indicated that multiple symptom dimensions are implicated in the expression of various behavioral and emotional forms of conflict. The second question examined associations between child adjustment and marital conflict processes. This question was tested for overall marital conflict and the subset to which the target children were exposed. Overall, there were fewer associations than expected, with few differences emerging as a function of exposure to conflict. The third and final question tested links between parental symptoms and child adjustment. Associations did emerge and child age moderated some of these findings. However, results were more consistent for parents' than children's ratings of adjustment. Interaction tests that included marital conflict x parent symptoms as a predictor of child adjustment were significant for husbands' but not wives' data. Probing these interactions revealed that the positive associations between husbands' depressive symptoms and child internalizing and externalizing adjustment problems, respectively, were stronger for husbands' reporting higher levels of dyadic depressive and destructive conflict. In summary, this study provides support for the continued investigation of child development in the context of multiple, interrelated family risk factors.


Date Modified


Defense Date


Research Director(s)

E. Mark Cummings

Committee Members

Anita Kelly David A. Smith Scott E. Maxwell Julia M. Braungart-Rieker


  • Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Level

  • Doctoral Dissertation


  • English

Alternate Identifier



University of Notre Dame

Program Name

  • Psychology

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