Date of Award

2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Menna, Rosanne (Psychology)

Keywords

Developmental psychology.

Rights

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Abstract

The present study examined the mediational role of young children's emotional security in relations between destructive and constructive marital conflict, and children's emotional and social competence and psychological adjustment. Participants were 91 mothers and their children aged 3-6 years (52 males and 39 females). Mothers' reports of their destructive and constructive marital conflict were obtained along with their reports of their children's emotional security, psychological adjustment, including internalizing and externalizing symptoms, social competence, including social skills, prosocial behaviour, and aggression, and emotional competence, including emotion regulation and emotion lability/negativity. Children completed tasks that assessed their hostile attributions and their emotion knowledge. Destructive marital conflict was associated with negative child outcomes including higher levels of internalizing and externalizing symptoms aggression, and emotion lability/negativity and lower levels of social skills, prosocial behaviour and emotion regulation. In contrast, constructive marital conflict was associated with positive child outcomes, including lower levels of internalizing and externalizing symptoms, aggression, and emotion lability/negativity and higher levels of social skills, prosocial behaviour and emotion regulation. However, emotional security did not mediate these relations. This null result is discussed within the context of the sensitization hypothesis. Additional analyses, however, indicated that an aspect of emotional security, namely behaviour dysregulation, partially mediated relations between destructive and constructive marital conflict and aspects of children's psychological adjustment, social competence, and emotional competence. These findings suggest the possibility of a developmental pathway for how children express their emotional security concerns and how these are related to their psychosocial and emotional development. Furthermore, this study provides support for the notion that destructive marital conflict is a risk factor for poor child outcomes while constructive marital conflict may be a protective factor and suggests the need for early intervention and prevention efforts.

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