Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Assessing Interparental Conflict: Reports of Parents and Adolescents in European American and Mexican American Families

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Assessing Interparental Conflict: Reports of Parents and Adolescents in European American and Mexican American Families

Article excerpt

This article reports on the development of the Multidimensional Assessment of Interparental Conflict Scale (MAIC), with parallel forms for parents and adolescents. Dimensions include frequency, intensity, child-related conflict, conflict behavior, child involvement, and resolution. Altogether 304 adolescents and their parents completed the scale. Adolescents were aged 12-15 years, and families were either European American or Mexican American. The MAIC is the first instrument to obtain both parent and adolescent reports of multiple dimensions of interparental conflict, to include adolescent reports of parental conflict behavior and to be validated in two ethnic groups.

Interparental conflict is an important predictor of children's behavioral and emotional adjustment problems (Buehler et al., 1997; Grych & Fincham, 1990). Indeed, interparental conflict appears to have stronger and longer-lasting deleterious effects on child and adolescent functioning than parental divorce (Block, Block, & Gjerde, 1986; Forehand, McCombs, Long, Brody, & Fauber, 1988; Peterson & Zill, 1986). Interparental conflict is associated with externalizing problems such as conduct disorders and aggression among children (e.g., Johnson & O'Leary, 1987; Johnston, Gonzalez, & Campbell, 1987), as well as with internalizing problems such as depression and anxiety among children and adolescents (e.g., Davies & Cummings, 1998; Long, Slater, Forehand, & Fauber, 1988).

Numerous investigators have stressed the multidimensional nature of interparental conflict (Cummings, Vogel, Cummings, & El-Sheikh, 1989; Davies & Cummings, 1994; Gottman & Krokoff, 1989; Grych & Fincham, 1990). Some researchers have argued that certain aspects of interparental conflict may be more detrimental to children's adjustment than others and that some dimensions could actually be constructive, fostering the development of conflict-management skills (e.g., Grych & Fincham, 1990). However, most studies examining the effects of parental conflict on child adjustment have measured interparental conflict as a single dimension. Recently, two groups of investigators have developed multidimensional measures of interparental conflict: the Children's Perception of Interparental Conflict Scale (CPIC; Grych, Seid, & Fincham, 1992), which is designed to be completed by the child, and the Conflicts and Problem-Solving Scales (CPS; Kerig, 1996), designed to be completed by the parent. The CPIC contains five conflict dimensions: frequency, intensity (verbal and physical aggression), resolution, content, and triangulation (child involvement), as well as four appraisal dimensions (e.g., perceived threat). The CPS contains five conflict dimensions that somewhat overlap with the CPIC: frequency, severity, resolution, efficacy, and conflict strategies (conflict behavior). Conflict strategies include six sub-dimensions: verbal aggression, physical aggression, collaboration, stalemate, avoidancecapitulation, and child involvement.

The CPIC and the CPS represent major advances in the attempt to measure interparental conflict multidimensionally. The next step was to create a measure of interparental conflict with parallel forms that can be completed by parents and children. Because each family member has a somewhat different perception of interparental conflict, multiple raters provide a more complete picture of interparental conflict than a single family member. Moreover, it is not yet known if parent or child reports of interparental conflict are more important predictors of child adjustment. Although the CPS for parents and the CPIC for children share the dimensions of frequency, intensity (verbal and physical aggression), resolution, and child involvement (triangulation), the two scales measure these dimensions with different items. Therefore, any findings appearing to suggest that the perceptions of one family member are most useful in predicting child adjustment could actually be due to differences between parent and child scales. …

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