Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

The Link between the Marital Bond and Future Triadic Family Interactions

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

The Link between the Marital Bond and Future Triadic Family Interactions

Article excerpt

This study examined how the marital bond, as indexed through the Oral History Interview (OHI), is related to future triadic family interactions. Families (N = 108), with a 7-9-year-old child, participated in a longitudinal study (the Family Health Project) examining children's emotional development throughout the transition to adolescence. Parental cohesion and family cohesion, warmth, structure, and problem solving were assessed via behavioral observation during family problem-solving discussions and parent-child teaching interactions 18-24 months after the OHI. Results indicated that the marital bond was predictive of parental cohesion, family cohesion, warmth, and structure during teaching interactions. The marital bond was not significantly predictive of family problem solving or parental cohesion in problem-solving interactions.

Key Words: family interaction, family relations, marriage satisfaction, parent-child relations.

Researchers have long been interested in exam- ining the marital relationship to learn more about the complex dynamics of marriage and the possi- ble effects that the marital relationship has on the entire family system. According to McDonough, Carlson, and Cooper (1994), "within the fam- ily systems framework, the spousal relationship is presumed to be the foundational relation- ship within the family, and therefore, the most critical to evaluate" (p. 70). Indeed, systems theory reminds us that the behavior of each family member is interrelated and that the mari- tal relationship and the parent-child relationship are intertwined (O'Connor, Heatherington, & Clingempeel, 1997). Grounded in systems the- ory, this paper examines the marital relationship through the lens of the Oral History Interview (OHI; Buehlman, Carrère, & Siler, 2005) and assesses how the couples' presentation of their relationship through this interview is related to future triadic family interactions. Specifically, we study whether and how the marital bond, which represents the perceptions spouses have about the nature of their relationship indexed by how they selectively attend to the more negative or positive elements in their marriage (Carrère, Buehlman, Gotfman, Coan, & Ruckstuhl, 2000), influences future family teaching and problemsolving interactions.

Much of the previous research on the links between the marital relationship and the parent-child relationship has focused on the negative effects of marital conflict. Segrin (2006), however, has recently called for more family research that focuses on positive family interactions and outcomes. This paper is an attempt to answer Segrin's call. We begin with a review of the literature on the connections between marital conflict and child outcomes. The nature of parent-child interactions is then explored.

Marital Conflict and Child Outcomes

Previous research has offered three explanations for the potential relationship between marital conflict and the parent-child relationship: no significant association between marital conflict and parents' relationship with their children, compensation, and spillover (Erel & Burman, 1995). The idea that there is no link between the quality of the marital relationship and the quality of the parent-child relationship has received little to no support and contradicts the tenets of systems theory. The compensatory hypothesis suggests that parents in dissatisfied marriages try to make up for the low levels of marital satisfaction by being especially warm and involved with their children. The compensatory hypothesis has received minimal support (Brody, Pillegrini, & Siegel, 1986). By far, the proposition that has received the strongest and most consistent support is the spillover hypothesis, which states that negativity and conflict from the marital relationship "spills over" into the parent-child relationship. Indeed, Erel and Burman, in their meta-analysis, found overwhelming support for the spillover hypothesis, as did Krishnakumar and Buehler (2000). …

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