Toward Greater Specificity in Identifying Associations Among Interparental Aggression, Child Emotional Reactivity to Conflict, and Child Problems


  • This research was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (R01 MH071256) awarded to Patrick T. Davies and Dante Cicchetti. The project was conducted at Mt. Hope Family Center. The authors are grateful to the children, parents, and community agencies who participated in this project and to the Mt. Hope Family Center staff.

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


This study examined specific forms of emotional reactivity to conflict and temperamental emotionality as explanatory mechanisms in pathways among interparental aggression and child psychological problems. Participants of the multimethod, longitudinal study included 201 two-year-old children and their mothers who had experienced elevated violence in the home. Consistent with emotional security theory, autoregressive structural equation model analyses indicated that children’s fearful reactivity to conflict was the only consistent mediator in the associations among interparental aggression and their internalizing and externalizing symptoms 1 year later. Pathways remained significant across maternal and observer ratings of children’s symptoms and with the inclusion of other predictors and mediators, including children’s sad and angry forms of reactivity to conflict, temperamental emotionality, gender, and socioeconomic status.