This study assessed longitudinally whether couples' dysregulated negative affect before parenthood is predictive of conflict, as well as diminished affective quality, in family relationships 5 years later. Observations of 25 couples' marital communication were made before parenthood and again 5 years later, when data also were collected on parent-child and family interactions. Husbands' prechild marital behavior and couples' prechild negative escalation were predictive of husbands' conflict and triangulation of the child into marital conflict. Family-level functioning (e.g., coalition formation) was predicted by prechild negative escalation. Parenting behavior was not predicted by prechild marital functioning but was related to current marital functioning. The data provide support for the hypothesis that how couples regulate negative affect early on in marriage sets the tone for future interactions involving parents and their child.
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