Marital problems in childhood affect teen adjustment

June 14, 2012

Marital discord is a significant social problem for children, sometimes leading to problems in health and well-being. A new longitudinal study finds that the impact of marital problems on children in their kindergarten years is long lasting and can lead to emotional problems that contribute to difficulties in adolescence.

The study, by researchers at the University of Notre Dame and the University of Rochester, appears in the journal Child Development.

"The results further highlight the possibility that there will be persistent negative effects of children's early experiences when there is conflict between their parents, at least when their emotional insecurity increases as a result of the conflict," according to E. Mark Cummings, professor and Notre Dame Endowed Chair in Psychology at the University of Notre Dame, the study's lead author. "This study has important implications for clinicians and parents," he added.

Cummings and his colleagues examined 235 primarily middle-class mothers, fathers, and children over seven years, focusing on the links between marital conflict when the children were in kindergarten, children's emotional insecurity in the early school years, and subsequent problems when the children were teens. Children's about family ties is related to their sense of protection, safety, and security, and has implications for how they do socially and emotionally. The researchers observed parents discussing a topic they had identified as hard to handle, rating specific conflict behaviors. They also asked parents to report on their conflicts.

The study found that conflict between parents when their children are young predicted children's emotional insecurity later in childhood, which, in turn, predicted adjustment problems in adolescence, including depression and anxiety.

"Emotional insecurity appears to be an explanation for the effects of on children's later problems," Cummings explained. "This mechanism lasts across relatively long periods of time and across the transition between childhood and adolescence."

Explore further: In Northern Ireland, political violence harms youths through families

Related Stories

In Northern Ireland, political violence harms youths through families

February 8, 2012
War, the aftermath of war, and political violence are harmful to children's and teens' mental health and well-being. But few studies have looked at how this happens. A new longitudinal study of neighborhoods in Belfast, Northern ...

Parents' conflicts affect adopted infants' sleep

August 2, 2011
When parents fight, infants are likely to lose sleep, researchers report. "We know that marital problems have an impact on child functioning, and we know that sleep is a big problem for parents," said Jenae M. Neiderhiser, ...

Study uncovers clues to young children's aggressive behavior

October 26, 2011
Children who are persistently aggressive, defiant, and explosive by the time they're in kindergarten very often have tumultuous relationships with their parents from early on. A new longitudinal study suggests that a cycle ...

Risk of future emotional problems can be identified during well-child visits

April 25, 2012
A new study suggests clinicians might be able to identify children at risk of later emotional or behavioral problems by paying attention to a few key signs during early well-child check-ups.  Researchers found that boys ...

Recommended for you

Small drop in measles vaccinations would have outsized effect, study estimates

July 24, 2017
Small reductions in childhood measles vaccinations in the United States would produce disproportionately large increases in the number of measles cases and in related public health costs, according to a new study by researchers ...

At the cellular level, a child's loss of a father is associated with increased stress

July 18, 2017
The absence of a father—due to incarceration, death, separation or divorce—has adverse physical and behavioral consequences for a growing child. But little is known about the biological processes that underlie this link ...

New comparison chart sheds light on babies' tears

July 10, 2017
A chart that enables parents and clinicians to calculate if a baby is crying more than it should in the first three months of its life has been created by a Kingston University London researcher, following a study of colic ...

Blood of SIDS infants contains high levels of serotonin

July 3, 2017
Blood samples from infants who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) had high levels of serotonin, a chemical that carries signals along and between nerves, according to a study funded in part by the National Institutes ...

Is your child's 'penicillin allergy' real?

July 3, 2017
(HealthDay)—Many children suspected of being allergic to the inexpensive, first-line antibiotic penicillin actually aren't, new research indicates.

Probiotic supplements failed to prevent babies' infections

July 3, 2017
(HealthDay)—Probiotic supplements may not protect babies from catching colds or stomach bugs in day care, a new clinical trial suggests.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.