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Inter-parental conflict and children's academic attainment: a longitudinal analysis

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Background: 

Previous research suggests a link between inter-parental conflict and children's psychological development. Most studies, however, have tended to focus on two broad indices of children's psychological adaptation (internalizing symptoms and externalizing problems) in considering the effects of inter-parental conflict on children's development. The present longitudinal study extends this body of research by considering the impact of inter-parental conflict on children's low academic attainment among a sample of 230 schoolchildren (age 11–13 years) living in the United Kingdom. Method: 

Controlling for teacher reports of children's initial levels of aggression (Time 1), the proposed theoretical model linked parent and child reports of inter-parental conflict at Time 1 (1999) to children's perceptions of negative parent–child relations, appraisals of self-blame for marital conflict and teacher reports of children's aggressive behavior at Time 2 (2000), which in turn were linked to children's performance on standardized academic tests (English, Math, Science) at Time 3 (2001). Structural equation modeling was used to test all hypothesized relations in the proposed theoretical model. Results: 

Support was found for the role of children's self-blaming attributions for parents’ marital arguments, not negative parenting behavior, as a mechanism through which variation in their academic attainment is explained. Conclusions: 

Contrary to the focus emphasized in most current family and school-based intervention programs, findings suggest that the attributional processes engendered in children who live in households marked by high levels of inter-parental conflict and hostility have important implications for their long-term academic success.
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Keywords: Inter-parental conflict; academic attainment; behavior problems; children's attributions; family–school intervention programs; longitudinal studies; marital disharmony; parenting; social cognition

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2007

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