Book Reviews -- Children and Marital Conflict: The Impact of Family Dispute and Resolution by E. Mark Cummings and Patrick Davies

Article excerpt

Cummings, E. Mark, & Davies, Patrick. (1994). Children and Marital Conflict: The Impact of Family Dispute and Resolution. New York: Guilford. 216 pp. Hardcover ISBN 0-89862-304-9, price $40.00; paper ISBN 0-89862-303-0, price $16.95.

Cummings and Davies' book is an up-to-date compilation of research on the impact of interparental conflict on child developmental outcomes. Although some of the conclusions reached here will not be new to family therapists and researchers, the authors may expose readers to psychological studies supporting these conclusions.

The first five chapters lay a scientific foundation for the book by reviewing literature relevant to the effects of interparental conflict on children. The first chapter reviews the evidence showing the negative impact of marital conflict on child development, considering both the magnitude of the relationship between the two and the specific behavior problems exhibited by children from high-conflict families. Of particular importance to family researchers is the suggestion that parental conflict associated with a specific parental dysfunction (e.g., parental depression) may be a significant, albeit largely unrecognized, factor mediating certain child outcomes.

Whereas the focus of this book as a whole is on the impact of marital conflict on children, chapter 2 provides the reader with an understanding of the origins, causes, and processes of marital conflict by reviewing the research on marital interactions in distressed and nondistressed couples. The conclusion of this chapter is that what distinguishes distressed from nondistressed couples is not conflict in itself, but rather how couples manage the inevitable conflict in intimate relationships.

Until recently, research has focused on the indirect effects of interparental conflict on children. In chapter 3, however, results from clinical field studies and analogue research are reviewed that indicate repeated exposure to interparental conflict can itself affect children's functioning. Specifically, these authors review evidence that anger between parents can be stressful and emotionally arousing for children and that it induces negative interpersonal behaviors, such as aggression and involvement in the parents' problems. …