Marital conflict tactics and behavior problems in children
Mies, Peter Lederle
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That a relationship exists between marital conflict and children's behavior problems is agreed upon by most researchers. Whether one form of marital conflict has a greater or lesser affect upon children than another form of marital conflict has not been examined. This study investigated the conflict tactics used by mothers and fathers when attempting to resolve their marital problems and asked whether particular conflict tactics were related to selected behavior problems in children. A significant relationship was found between the tactics parents used in their marital conflict and children's behavior disorders. Boys' conduct disordered behavior was related to their fathers' violent and verbally agressive conflict tactics. Girls' anxiety-withdrawal behavior was found to be related to their mothers' violent conflict tactics. This supports previous literature which suggested that boys model the behavior of their fathers and also supports the general tendency for girls to try and live up to society's behavioral edicts when outside the home, regardless of the atmosphere of the home itself.;Relationships between marital conflict and children's behavior disorders were most consistent when both parents used verbally agressive conflict tactics or one parent was physically agressive toward the other. Relationships were weak or nonexistent where only one parent used verbal agressive tactics and the other parent emphasized calmness and restraint. These findings were discussed from two viewpoints. First, it was suggested that parents who use discussion, calmness and restraint in their conflict resolution are better role models and are able to "buffer" the child from the more verbally agressive parent. "Buffering" was less effective when one spouse emphasized physically agressive conflict tactics. Secondly, this study suggested that some children may be more capable than other children in dealing with their parents' marital conflicts due to biological characteristics. In general, the relationship between marital conflict and children's behavior is made clearer when the type of conflict tactics used by parents is examined. Alternatively, although general patterns exist, children deal with the stress associated with their parents' marital problems differently.;Either way, the relationship between marital and child problems is a complex one and requires careful consideration.