Academic journal article Family Relations

Interparental Conflict and Parenting Behaviors: A Meta-Analytic Review

Academic journal article Family Relations

Interparental Conflict and Parenting Behaviors: A Meta-Analytic Review

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study is to examine the association between interparental conflict and parenting using meta-analytic review techniques. One-hundred and thirty-eight effect sizes from 39 studies are analyzed. The overall average weighted effect size is -.62, indicating a moderate association and support for the spillover hypothesis. The parenting behaviors most impacted by interparental conflict are harsh discipline and parental acceptance. Several moderating effects for subject and method characteristics are significant.

Key Words: interparental conflict, marital conflict, marriage, meta-analysis parenting.

Exposure to parental aggression and strife can be stressful for youth and can negatively impact their health and well being (e.g., Amato, 1986; Cummings, Davies, & Simpson, 1994; Grych & Fincham, 1990; Jouriles et al., 1991). Additionally, hostile conflict expression in distressed marriages can impact on parenting practices which. in turn, affects youth adjustment (e.g., Fauber, Forehand, Thomas, & Wierson, 1990). Marital turmoil and friction particularly seem to affect three key parenting behaviors: (a) parental involvement (Biller & Solomon, 1986; Burman, John. & Margolin, 1997; Fauber et al., 1990), (b) parental disciplinary practices (Holden & Ritchie, 1991; Jouriles & LeCompte, 1991), and (c) parental consistency (Block, Block, & Morrison, 1981; Stoneman, Brody, & Burke, 1989). A nonempirical examination of published results suggests that the effect size (correlations) ranges from about -.10 to .56. As such, marital conflict may account for somewhere between 1% and 25 % of the variance in parenting behaviors. However, such an arbitrary examination of the strength of the relationship can be misleading because it does not estimate the number of associations that are actually different from zero, nor does it take into account variables that effect the direction and/or strength of the relationship. Sample characteristics such as child gender, family structure, and parent gender, as well as methodological characteristics such as study design, measures. and analytic strategies may be responsible for the wide variation in various estimates of the association between interparental conflict and parenting behaviors.

In a meta-analytic review of the association between global marital quality and parent-child relations, Erel and Burman (1995) found an average effect size of -.49 and that the association between overt interparental conflict and negative parenting was .44 (Erel & Burman, 1995), The researchers' primary focus was on the association between overall global marital quality (including overt interparental conflict) and parent-child relationship. They did not focus specifically on the association between overt interparental conflict and parenting behaviors per se. The factors that moderated the link between interparental conflict and parenting behaviors was not conducted because there were too few studies. The number of studies has increased since their review and this body of research could profit from a meta-analytic review.

Therefore, the purpose of this study is to build on Erel and Burman's (1995) work by conducting a meta-analysis of 39 studies published from 1981 through 1998 that have examined the association between interparental conflict and parenting. Such an investigation can help researchers evaluate the current status of research and more efficiently direct future research. It also can guide policy makers and clinicians who make decisions with regard to the mental health and interpersonal functioning of children and parents.

Conceptualization and Literature Review

Interparental Conflict

Differences and disagreements between parents over familial and nonfamilial issues are part of family life (Buehler & Trotter, 1990). Interparental conflict is a multidimensional construct that includes frequency, mode of expression, chronicity or duration, intensity, and degree of resolution all of which are important elements that should be considered when examining the impact of interparental conflict on parenting patterns (Buehler, Krishnakumar, Anthony, Tittsworth, & Stone, 1994; Cummings & Davies, 1994). …

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