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Inter-parental conflict, domestic violence and children's psychological adjustment: The role of children's perceptions of parental behaviour

Howarth, Emma Louise 2008. Inter-parental conflict, domestic violence and children's psychological adjustment: The role of children's perceptions of parental behaviour. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.

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The research presented in this thesis applies a process-orientated perspective to understanding children's emotional and behavioural adjustment in the context of hostile and violent inter-parental conflict. The studies presented examined the relationship between inter-parental conflict and the quality of parent-child relations, and the role that dysfunction in these family relationships may play in determining children's psychological adaptation. In particular, the primary focus of this research was concerned with children's perceptions, or social cognitive processing, of these family relationships as a primary mechanism through which exposure to inter-parental conflict ranging in severity, influences children's psychological wellbeing. Using data from three separate samples of children and parents drawn from community and clinical settings in the United Kingdom, a set of four interlocking studies was conducted. First, using a sample of over 200 children and parents, the quality of parent-child relations was found to play a mediating role in the relationship between parents' reports of marital conflict and children's immediate and longer term externalising behaviour. Recognising the need to examine the interrelationships between the marital and parent-child relationship from the child's perspective, the second study considered the joint role'played by children's appraisals of both inter- parental conflict and parent-child relationship quality in explaining children's adaptation in the context of varying levels of conflict. Children's appraisals of both relationships were found to be important in conveying effects to children's psychological adaptation across the spectrum of inter-parental behaviour, although there was some variation in processes underpinning children's development as a function of conflict severity and the index of adjustment considered (internalising symptoms, externalising problems). Next, the role of younger children's appraisals of family relationships was examined. Children's appraisals were found to play an intervening role in the relationship between hostile inter-parental conflict and adjustment, although children's internalising symptoms were found to be affected directly through children's appraisals of threat relating to parents' marital conflict, whereas children's externalising problems were found to be affected indirectly, through children's respective appraisals of both the inter-parental and parent-child relationships. Finally, children's appraisals of multiple family relationships were examined as a mechanism through which very hostile forms of inter-parental conflict influenced children's concurrent adjustment. Broad agreement was found with the previous studies, where children's appraisals of the inter-parental relationship seemed to be particularly important in accounting for children's internalising symptoms in the context of high inter-parental conflict, whereas children's views on the quality of relations with parents were more important in accounting for children's externalising problems. Collectively, these studies represent a process-orientated account of how inter- parental conflict across the spectrum of severity affects children's adjustment, and in particular locates children's understanding of family relationships as a primary mechanism through which hostile and violent inter-parental conflict impacts on children's psychological functioning. These findings are of relevance to researchers, practitioners and policy makers seeking to understand how interparental conflict and domestic violence affects children.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
ISBN: 9781303184772
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 10 Jan 2018 03:33

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