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

Asthma drug tied to nightmares, depression

September 20, 2017
(HealthDay)—The asthma medication Singulair (montelukast) appears linked to neuropsychiatric side effects, such as depression, aggression, nightmares and headaches, according to a new review by Dutch researchers.

Parents not confident schools can assist child with chronic disease, mental health

September 18, 2017
If your child had an asthma attack during the school day, would school personnel know how to respond?

Premature infants may get metabolic boost from mom's breast milk

September 14, 2017
The breast milk of mothers with premature babies has different amounts of microRNA than that of mothers with babies born at term, which may help premature babies catch up in growth and development, according to researchers.

Explaining bursts of activity in brains of preterm babies

September 12, 2017
The source of spontaneous, high-amplitude bursts of activity seen in the brains of preterm babies, which are vital for healthy development, has been identified by a team led by researchers at UCL and King's College London.

Why one teenager may need more—or less—sleep than another

August 30, 2017
Sleep problems contribute to a number of mental health issues in adolescents, researchers say. But a lingering question is whether some teens need more—or less—sleep than others to be healthy and at their best.

Study shows probiotics can prevent sepsis in infants

August 17, 2017
A research team at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health has determined that a special mixture of good bacteria in the body reduced the incidence of sepsis in infants in India by 40 percent at ...

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.