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The Legacy of Early Insecurity Histories in Shaping Adolescent Adaptation to Interparental Conflict


  • This research was supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (R01 MH57318 and 2R01 MH57318) awarded to Patrick T. Davies and E. Mark Cummings. Patrick Davies was also supported by the James McKeen Cattell Sabbatical Award during the preparation of this manuscript. We are grateful to the children, parents, and school staff who participated in the project. We also express our gratitude to the project personnel at the University of Rochester and University of Notre Dame.


This study tested whether the mediational pathway involving interparental conflict, adolescent emotional insecurity, and their psychological problems was altered by their earlier childhood histories of insecurity. Participants included 230 families, with the first of the five measurement occasions occurring when children were in first grade (Mage = 7 years). Results indicated that interparental conflict was associated with increases in adolescent emotional insecurity that, in turn, predicted subsequent increases in their psychological problems. Childhood insecurity predicted adolescent maladjustment 5 years later even after considering contemporaneous family experiences. Moderator findings revealed that adolescents with relatively higher levels of insecurity in childhood evidenced disproportionately greater and reduced levels of insecurity in the context of high and low levels of interparental conflict, respectively.