In a sample of 143 parent-child dyads from two-parent and separated families, this investigation documented the links between parental psychological violence and separation or divorce, severity of parental conflict, triangulation of the child in this conflict, and polarized parent-child alliances. The unique and combined contributions of all these variables to children's behavior problems were also assessed. Participants were parents, mostly mothers, and their 10-12-year-old child. They were recruited through schools, community organizations, and newspapers. Questionnaires were administered at home. Findings suggest that separated families undergo more relational disturbances than two-parent families (more severe conflicts, more triangulation, stronger parent-child alliances), but the amount of parental psychological violence was similar in both groups. Psychological violence was associated with the severity of parental conflict, especially in two-parent families. Triangulation of the child in parental conflict was another correlate of psychological violence. Once all variables were controlled for, psychological violence remained the only significant correlate of children's externalized behavior problems. These findings raise the importance of preventing psychological violence toward children, especially in families plagued with severe parental conflicts.
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