Developmental Family Processes and Interparental Conflict: Patterns of Microlevel Influences

  • Schermerhorn A
  • Chow S
  • Cummings E
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Abstract

Although there are frequent calls for the study of effects of children on families and mutual influence processes within families, little empirical progress has been made. We address these questions at the level of microprocesses during marital conflict, including children's influence on marital conflict and parents' influence on each other. Participants were 111 cohabiting couples with a child (55 male, 56 female) age 8-16 years. Data were drawn from parents' diary reports of interparental conflict over 15 days and were analyzed with dynamic systems modeling tools. Child emotions and behavior during conflicts were associated with interparental positivity, negativity, and resolution at the end of the same conflicts. For example, children's agentic behavior was associated with more marital conflict resolution, whereas child negativity was linked with more marital negativity. Regarding parents' influence on each other, among the findings, husbands' and wives' influence on themselves from one conflict to the next was indicated, and total number of conflicts predicted greater influence of wives' positivity on husbands' positivity. Contributions of these findings to the understanding of developmental family processes are discussed, including implications for advanced understanding of interrelations between child and adult functioning and development.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Bidirectionality
  • Daily diaries
  • Dynamic systems methods
  • Interparental conflict

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Authors

  • Alice C. Schermerhorn

  • Sy Miin Chow

  • E. Mark Cummings

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