Kids and parents: A two way street

February 10, 2005

It's the classic chicken-and-egg conundrum: Do difficult children increase marital conflict or does marital conflict contribute to a worsening of children's behavioral problems? Turns out it's a little of both, according to a study published in the January/February 2005 journal, Child Development.

When researchers at the universities of Toronto in Canada, London in Great Britain, and Rochester Medical Center in New York investigated 296 children from 127 families in England over a period of two years, they found that when parents argued more about their children, those children's behavioral problems at school increased over time. Conversely, the researchers found, children's behavioral problems also led to increased marital conflict over time, particularly in families with stepchildren.

The findings provide important information for therapists who work with troubled families, notes lead researcher Jennifer Jenkins, PhD, of the University of Toronto. "They need to consider both the ways in which child behavior evokes responses from parents and the ways in which parental behavior evokes responses from children," she said.

Not all siblings in the family were equally exposed to their parents' marital conflict. For instance, researchers found, parents argued more about one sibling than another, and some siblings were present in the room during arguments more often than other siblings. These differences in sibling experiences were greatest in stepfamilies.

The differences occur, researchers suspect, because different children evoke different experiences in parents. "Something like marital conflict, which we have previously considered to be a risk to which all children in the family were exposed, turns out to be a risk that varies quite a bit across children," said Dr. Jenkins. "Some children, because of their own personalities, start up more fights between their parents. The fact that siblings have very different experiences of family life may help explain why children in the same family develop very different personalities and behavior."
Summarized from Child Development, Vol. 6, Issue 1, The Mutual Influence Of Marital Conflict And Children's Behavior Problems: Shared And Non-Shared Family Risks by Jenkins J (University of Toronto), Dunn J (University of London), O'Connor TG (University of Rochester), Rasbash J (University of London) and Simpson A (University of Toronto. Copyright 2005 The Society for Research in Child Development, Inc. All rights reserved.

Society for Research in Child Development

Related Behavior Articles from Brightsurf:

Variety in the migratory behavior of blackcaps
The birds have variable migration strategies.

Fishing for a theory of emergent behavior
Researchers at the University of Tsukuba quantified the collective action of small schools of fish using information theory.

How synaptic changes translate to behavior changes
Learning changes behavior by altering many connections between brain cells in a variety of ways all at the same time, according to a study of sea slugs recently published in JNeurosci.

I won't have what he's having: The brain and socially motivated behavior
Monkeys devalue rewards when they anticipate that another monkey will get them instead.

Unlocking animal behavior through motion
Using physics to study different types of animal motion, such as burrowing worms or flying flocks, can reveal how animals behave in different settings.

AI to help monitor behavior
Algorithms based on artificial intelligence do better at supporting educational and clinical decision-making, according to a new study.

Increasing opportunities for sustainable behavior
To mitigate climate change and safeguard ecosystems, we need to make drastic changes in our consumption and transport behaviors.

Predicting a protein's behavior from its appearance
Researchers at EPFL have developed a new way to predict a protein's interactions with other proteins and biomolecules, and its biochemical activity, merely by observing its surface.

Spirituality affects the behavior of mortgagers
According to Olga Miroshnichenko, a Sc.D in Economics, and a Professor at the Department of Economics and Finance, Tyumen State University, morals affect the thinking of mortgage payers and help them avoid past due payments.

Asking if behavior can be changed on climate crisis
One of the more complex problems facing social psychologists today is whether any intervention can move people to change their behavior about climate change and protecting the environment for the sake of future generations.

Read More: Behavior News and Behavior Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to