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Marital Conflict Management Skills, Parenting Style, and Early-onset Conduct Problems: Processes and Pathways

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This study examined whether the link between marital conflict management style and child conduct problems with peers and parents is direct or mediated by mothers' and fathers' parenting style (critical parenting and low emotional responsivity). One hundred and twenty children, aged 4 to 7 years, were observed interacting in our laboratory playroom solving a problem with their best friend as well as at home with their parents. In addition, all the children's parents were observed in our laboratory trying to solve two family problems as well as at home interacting under more natural conditions with each other and with their children. Mothers and fathers completed questionnaires assessing marital problem solving as well as reports of their children's behavior problems. Results indicated that a negative marital conflict management style had direct links with children's conduct problems. In addition, the linkage between negative marital conflict management and children's interactions with parents and peers was found to be mediated by both mothers' and fathers' critical parenting and low emotional responsivity, thereby supporting the indirect as well as the direct model of negative family interactions. The findings are discussed in relation to the implications for treatment.
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Keywords: Behavior problems; communication; conduct disorder; marital relationships; parenting; peer relationships

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Washington, Seattle, U.S.A.

Publication date: September 1, 1999

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