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Child Adaptational Development in Contexts of Interparental Conflict Over Time


  • This research was supported by a National Institute of Mental Health (R01 MH57318) grant awarded to Patrick T. Davies and E. Mark Cummings. Melissa Sturge-Apple and Marcia A. Winter were supported by the National Institute of Mental Health F32 MH66596 and F31MH06805 fellowships, respectively.

  • We are grateful to the children, parents, teachers, and school administrators who participated in this project. Our gratitude is expressed to the staff that assisted on various stages of the project, including: Courtney Forbes, Courtney Henry, Marcie Goeke-Morey, Amy Keller, Michelle Sutton, and the graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Rochester and University of Notre Dame.

concerning this article should be addressed to Patrick T. Davies, Department of Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY 14627. Electronic mail may be sent to:


This multi-method study sought to identify parameters of developmental change and stability of child reaction patterns to interparental conflict in the context of family relations in a sample of 223 6-year-old children and their parents followed over the course of one year. Consistent with the sensitization hypothesis, interparental withdrawal and hostility each consistently and uniquely predicted child distress reactions to conflict even after analytically controlling for parental warmth. Associations were found across multiple domains of child responding (i.e., overt negative affect, subjective negative affect, internal representations) and both concurrent and prospective, autoregressive analyses. Results of the autoregressive path analyses indicated moderate stability in each of the domains of conflict reactivity over the 1-year longitudinal period.

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