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Marital Conflict & Child Maladjustment. Christina Maria Aguilera, 18 December 1980, Staten Island, New York, USA. Aguilera was one of several US teen.

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Presentation on theme: "Marital Conflict & Child Maladjustment. Christina Maria Aguilera, 18 December 1980, Staten Island, New York, USA. Aguilera was one of several US teen."— Presentation transcript:

1 Marital Conflict & Child Maladjustment

2 Christina Maria Aguilera, 18 December 1980, Staten Island, New York, USA. Aguilera was one of several US teen pop stars to rise to huge popular acclaim in the late 90s. Of Irish and Ecuadorian descent, her mother played violin and piano professionally while her father's position in the military resulted in the family travelling extensively around the world. Finally settling in Wexford, Pittsburgh, Aguilera began performing at school talent shows, before making her first professional appearance at the age of eight on the nationally syndicated Star Search show.

3 Christina has ghosts of domestic violence and child abuse — Aguilera and her mother were victimized by her father when she was young — she transforms the ghosts into talismans of strength and courage.

4 Frameworks- Trauma Theory I’m OK Once upon a time there was a girl In her early years she had to learn How to grow up living in a war that she called home Never know just where to turn for shelter from the storm Hurt me to see the pain across my mother's face Everytime my father's fist would put her in her place Hearing all the yelling I would cry up in my room Hoping it would be over soon Bruises fade father, but the pain remains the same And I still remember how you kept me so afraid Strength is my mother for all the love she gave Every morning that I wake I look back to yesterday And I'm OK I often wonder why I carry all this guilt When it's you that helped me put up all these walls I've built Shadows stir at night through a crack in the door The echo of a broken child screaming "please no more" Daddy, don't you understand the damage you have done To you it's just a memory, but for me it still lives on Bruises fade father, but the pain remains the same And I still remember how you kept me so, so afraid Strength is my mother for all the love she gave Every morning that I wake I look back to yesterday It's not so easy to forget All the lines you left along her neck When I was thrown against cold stairs And every day I'm afraid to come home In fear of what I might see there Bruises fade father but the pain remains the same And I still remember how you kept me so afraid Strength is my mother for all the love she gave Every morning that I wake I look back to yesterday And I'm OK I'm OK

5 The Aguilera Continuum - Exploring the Differing Effects of Marital Conflict on Children -

6 Overview Introduction Explanatory Frameworks Impact of Conflict on Children  Developmental Psychopathology Perspective  Children’s relationships With parents, siblings, extended family & peers Extreme Impacts Predicting Outcomes Prevention & Intervention

7 Outcomes of Interparental Conflict Negative child outcomes are more strongly associated with family variables, particularly marital conflict, than divorce  Children of divorced families appear to have higher levels of well-being than children from intact, high conflict families (Amato & Keith, 1991)  Continued conflict between parents after divorce exacerbates negative child adjustment (Hetherington & Clingempeel, 1989)

8 Outcomes of Interparental Conflict Maladjustment occurs on a continuum Associations noted between marital conflict and: Internalizing behaviour problems Depression, withdrawal, anxiety Externalizing behaviour problems Conduct disorder, aggressiveness, delinquency/antisocial behaviour Post-traumatic stress symptoms Physiological & health symptoms Problems with mood, academics, peer relationships, and social problem solving abilities

9 Outcomes of Interparental Conflict  Associations are modest less than 0.30  Meta-analysis of over 80 studies found mean effect size of 0.46  Review of 26 studies, vast majority of studies were associated with effect sizes of less than 0.30 Zimet & Jacob (2001)

10 Why the difference? Children differ… Families differ… Social support structures differ… Effect of marital conflict on child adjustment is a broad construct

11 Frameworks for understanding

12 Frameworks Family Systems Theory Transmission of Affect Contingency of Cognitive Style Genetic Transmission Theory Trauma Theory Social Learning Theory

13 Frameworks Family Systems Theory –  Psychopathology as a reflection of family processes  Marital power struggles are accompanied by an intensification of intimacy &/or rejection in the parent-child relationship

14 Frameworks Transmission of Affect –  Spillover Disharmony in one family relationship effects other family relationships and overall family stability  Common-factor Personality characteristics of one person influences both marital and parental relationships

15 Frameworks Contingency of Cognitive Style Like common-factor but cognitive  Individuals may apply cognitive perceptions globally not specifically  Negative perceptions and interpretations of marital relationship colours view of children

16 Frameworks Genetic Transmission Theory  Effects of marital discord are either caused or exacerbated by genetic similarities between parent and child  Parental conflict and child conduct problems are mediated by genes (e.g. antisocial personality)

17 Frameworks Social Learning Theory  Children learn from what they see from parents  Indirectly Apply model of conflict (poor conflict resolution & hostility) to other relationships  Directly Interparental conflict disrupts normal family activities & limits opportunities to correct aversive child behaviours

18 Frameworks Social Learning Theory (cont’d…)  Growing up in the presence of parental conflict can have a disinhibitory effect, teaching children that aggressive behaviour is appropriate and permitted  A child may see aggression as an appropriate form of conflict management and develop maladaptive techniques for problem solving or conflict resolution Grych & Fincham, 1990

19 Frameworks Trauma Theory  Most applicable to extreme or abusive marital conflict  Maladjustment caused by repeated exposure to traumatic stressor of interparental conflict  Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder  Sensitization

20 Frameworks Trauma Theory (cont’d) Sensitization More frequent open conflict is associated with increased behaviour problems Johnson et. al. (1987), Long et. al. (1987, 1988), Porter & O’Leary (1980), Wierson et. al. (1988)  Is interparental conflict inherently traumatic?

21 Frameworks Discussion Realism of frameworks?

22 Family Systems Theory Transmission of Affect Contingency of Cognitive Style Genetic Transmission Theory Trauma Theory Social Learning Theory In school Christina's teachers are noticing that she has become overly sensitive. When Christina (8 years old) encounters small challenges she responds with tears. The other day her classmate Brian told her that she was not welcome at his birthday party because it was for boys only. Christina became overwrought and refused to participate in class activities for the remainder of the day. At home Christina's parents are in the process of an acrimonious divorce. When Christina's father comes to pick her up, her parents argue loudly in front of Christina, often about Christina herself (e.g. discipline, custody, the origin of her emotional instability, etc.) Explain the scenario in terms of your framework

23 Impact of Conflict on Children

24 Impact on Children Developmental psychopathology perspective Systems theory Children’s relationships with  Parents  Siblings and extended family  Peers Alcoholism and Drugs Suicide

25 Developmental Psychopathology Perspective

26 Assumes child’s reactions to a stressor reflects an interaction between the nature of the stressor and the child's developmental capacities to respond to that stressor Need to look at 3 things:  how consequences of marital conflict vary in intensity and form at different developmental stages  how outcomes are multiply determined rather than uniquely the result of marital conflict  whether and under what circumstances the risk of exposure at one age affects later development Margolin et. al. (2001)

27 The meaning children place on marital conflict determines how it impacts them and how they develop This perspective helps us understand why marital conflict does not affect everyone in the same way No one age group is more vulnerable to marital conflict than another

28 Children’s relationships – Systems Theory Good theory to explain the influence of marital conflict on children Developed from psychiatry and psychotherapy Circular not linear – e.g. parental behaviour reinforces child’s behaviour which reinforces parental behaviour The material structure is not what defines an object it is its organization as defined by the patterns of interaction among its parts Looks at not just the individual but the family too Negative feedback process Positive feedback process

29 Children’s Relationships With Parents With Siblings & Extended Family With Peers

30 With Parents First need to distinguish between quality and quantity of parenting Quality suffers because parents may be less sensitive and responsive to needs of child Spillover Hypothesis  Negative affect in the marital relationship is thought to spread to and contaminate or disrupt the interactions between the parents and the child

31 With Parents Emotional Security Hypothesis  There is a link between marital discord and less sensitive and responsive parenting  Children do not just react to the occurrence of marital conflict, but also to the meaning of conflict  Can impede child’s development of emotional regulation skills  Parents may become a source of fear rather than a source of comfort

32 With Parents Parental Withdrawal  Parents may withdraw from children due to preoccupation with the marital conflict  Children may see this as parental rejection or disinterest

33 With Parents Scapegoating / detouring  Child takes on symptoms of family pathology and becomes identified as the problematic member of the family system Triangulation  One or both parents try to recruit child into a coalition against the other parent  Child’s relationship with both parents may suffer

34 With Parents Learning Perspective  Children who respond by involving themselves in the conflict exhibit higher levels of maladjustment  Adolescents model the parents behaviour and act more aggressively towards parents, especially toward their mother  When child acts out parents stop fighting to deal with the child therefore causing negative reinforcement of the acting out

35 With Parents Parental Discipline  Parents may exhibit harsh, permissive or inconsistent discipline Why?  Displaced anger, compensation  No energy to deal with child  Disorganized, behaving differently depending on who’s around  Difficulty communicating

36 With Parents Overt & covert co-parenting The Compensatory Hypothesis  “It is questionable whether a close relationship fueled by a parent’s negative relationship with his/her spouse is truly positive” Do you agree or disagree?

37 With Siblings & Extended Family Depends on  Children’s adjustment  Social understanding (i.e. individual differences in reading others) Triangulation  May create differential treatment of children  Leads to sibling conflict because children model parents behaviour In all families, step and half siblings are not as close as real siblings  In marital conflict families this may be more pronounced

38 With Peers Modeling Hypothesis  Conflict impacts peer relationships because it exposes them to frequent bouts of conflict that the child may imitate when with peers Cognitive contextual framework  Need to understand the properties of conflict, child’s processing of conflict and overall context of conflict

39 With Peers Emotional security hypothesis  Children work to maintain a sense of emotional well-being that guides their reaction to parental conflict Children from high conflict families were rated by their teachers as less socially competent, having more conduct problems poor problem solving skills

40 Extreme Adverse Impacts Alcoholism & drugs  Drinking and drugs plays important adaptive and functional role  Diverts attention from other areas of conflict  Provides elements of stability and predictability  Parents of alcoholics usually emotionally immature and unstable

41 Extreme Adverse Impacts Suicide  Family systems theory sees suicide as a symptom of family dysfunction  Adolescence who commit suicide may be helping their families avoid painful issues like acceptance of a family member leaving home or diverting from other family conflicts

42 Outcomes Factors that impact child adjustment to marital conflict

43 Categories of Moderating Variables Three categories of influences on children’s adjustment -  Child Variables  Parent Variables  Non-family Variables

44 Child Variables Cognitive  Causal Attribution Children who assume stable, continuous, global & externally controlled are more prone to low self esteem, poorer communication with parents & negative affect  Attribution of Blame When parents provide an explanation absolving children of fault for the conflict, children’s perception of self-blame & desire to intervene in future is reduced  Efficacy Expectations When efficacy high, a child expects to be able to cope with emotions and use effective behaviours in managing their response to conflict

45 Child Variables Behavioural  Emotion Focused - focus on positive, ascribing blame, altering interpretation  Problem Focused - intervene or distract parents from conflict Successful interventions increases the likelihood that the child will be involved in future conflicts

46 Child Variables Contextual Distal factors -  Conflict history as a primer for increased sensitization anticipated outcomes Proximal factors -  Children who are depressed or in a negative mood are more likely to recall negative events and make negative judgements

47 Child Variables Individual / Demographic differences  Temperament “difficult” children react more strongly to marital problem-solving task reactivity to stress influences on behavioural responses parent-child relationship  Age / Development Children of all ages evidence maladjustment No single age more or less likely to be affected  Gender Boys - externalizing problems, girls - internalizing

48 Parent Variables Parenting strategies  With partner  With child Gender  Father-child relationship more vulnerable to effects of marital conflict than mother-child relationship

49 Non-family variables Peer influences Social influences  social support  social norms & mores Both child and parent are influenced by external factors

50 Study 4 Family characteristics as potentiating and protective factors in the association between parental conflict and child functioning Aim -  To identify the family processes that moderate the link between interparental conflict and child functioning

51 Study 4 - Hypotheses Family cohesion, interparental relationship satisfaction and interparental emotional expressiveness will act as protective factors in associations between parental conflict and child maladjustment The relationship between interpersonal conflict and child emotional insecurity will be weaker for children who experience warm, cohesive, and expressive family relationship

52 Study 4 - Method Parental Conflict Child Emotional Insecurity Child Internalizing Symptoms Child External Symptoms Child Behaviour Dysregulation Family Cohesion Family Instability Interparental Expressiveness Interparental Satisfaction Parent-Child Insecurity Parenting Difficulties 173 parent-child dyads completed survey packets to assess 11 variables:

53 Study 4 - Results Statistical regression analysis supports a link between family characteristics and child adjustment Specifically:  Interparental conflict correlated with child insecurity in the parental relationship  Child insecurity correlated with child’s psychological symptoms  No effect of adversity in the parent-child relationship (i.e. parenting difficulties & parent-child insecurity)  Link between child insecurity and child maladjustment weak when high levels of family cohesiveness, parental satisfaction & interpersonal expressiveness

54 Study 4 - Conclusion Family cohesiveness, parental satisfaction & interpersonal expressiveness can protect insecure children from suffering maladjustment as a result of interparental conflict Easy for them to say...

55 Prevention & Intervention

56 Prevention Prenuptial The transition to parenthood Infancy Childhood Adolescence Marital/couples Divorce

57 Intervention Some forms of conflict can be good because it teaches the child how to deal with and solve their own conflicts

58 Intervention I CAN DO program Resourceful Adolescent Program Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program Children of Divorce Intervention Program Divorce Education for Parents Children in the Middle Penn Prevention Program Positive Adolescent Choices Training

59 A final thought… Marital conflict does not cause maladjustment in all children Dispositional, cognitive and other factors all play a significant role Children’s and parent’s coping strategies influence the end result of conflict Successfully handled marital conflict can help foster successful children

60 As Christina would say… "One track in particular that I wrote with Linda, it sounds like a twisted lullaby," she continues. "It's about my childhood and past. Not to get too specific, but I've spoken openly about trying to get the word out about domestic violence and child abuse, so one of the songs is really personal. I'm not afraid to do that, because I feel like so many other young people in certain situations like this [can see that] someone coming from that background could grow up and do something so great and use a bad experience and turn it into a good one. I turned to music originally because of my past and needing a release or an outlet to get out anger or frustration or hurt."

61 As Christina would say…

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