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Interparental Discord and Child Adjustment: Prospective Investigations of Emotional Security as an Explanatory Mechanism


  • This research was supported in part by a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD 036261) to the first author and by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (MH 57318) to the first and third authors. We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Scott Maxwell, PhD, for consultation on advanced statistical matters.

  • Marcie C. Goeke-Morey is now at The Catholic University of America.

concerning this article should be addressed to E. Mark Cummings, The Notre Dame Endowed Chair in Psychology, Department of Psychology, 118 Haggar Hall, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556. Electronic mail may be sent to


Advancing the process-oriented study of links between interparental discord and child adjustment, 2 multimethod prospective tests of emotional security as an explanatory mechanism are reported. On the basis of community samples, with waves spaced 2 years apart, Study 1 (113 boys and 113 girls, ages 9–18) identified emotional security as a mediator in a 2-wave test, whereas Study 2 (105 boys and 127 girls, ages 5–7) indicated emotional security as an intervening mechanism in a 3-wave test. Relations between discord and emotional security increased as children moved into adolescence in Study 1. Emotional security was identified as an explanatory mechanism for both internalizing and externalizing problems in children.