Marital Conflict Typology and Children's Appraisals: The Moderating Role of Family Cohesion

Kristin M. Lindahl, Neena M. Malik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Scopus citations

Abstract

Intense and frequent marital conflict is associated with greater appraisals of threat and self-blame in children, but little else is known about contextual factors that might affect appraisals. Systemic family theories propose that to understand child adaptation, it is necessary to understand the interconnected nature of family subsystem relationships. In a sample of 257 families with 8- to 12-year-old children, this study examined whether a four-level typology of marital conflict management was related to children's perceptions of marital conflict and their appraisals of perceived threat and self-blame. In addition, family cohesion was tested as a moderator of the relationship between marital conflict style and children's appraisals. Observational coding was used to group couples into Harmonious, Disengaged, Conflictual-Expressive, and Conflictual-Hostile groups. Children's report of the intensity, frequency, and degree of resolution of interparental discord corresponded well with observers' ratings. The relationship between marital conflict style and appraisals of threat and self-blame was moderated by family cohesiveness. At high levels of family cohesiveness, no group differences were found for either perceived threat or self-blame, whereas when family cohesiveness was low, threat was higher for the Harmonious and Conflictual-Hostile groups, as compared to the Conflictual-Expressive group, and self-blame was higher for both conflict groups (expressive and hostile), as compared to the Disengaged group. The results provide further evidence of interconnected nature of family subsystem relationships and the importance of distinguishing among different approaches to marital conflict management for understanding the complex and perhaps subtle but meaningful effects different family system factors have on child adaptation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)194-201
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Volume25
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2011

Keywords

  • Appraisals
  • Family cohesion
  • Marital conflict
  • Self-blame
  • Threat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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