Tracing the Cascade of Children’s Insecurity in the Interparental Relationship: The Role of Stage-Salient Tasks


  • This research was supported by 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 whether children’s difficulties with stage-salient tasks served as an explanatory mechanism in the pathway between their insecurity in the interparental relationship and their disruptive behavior problems. Using a multimethod, multi-informant design, 201 two-year-old children and their mothers participated in 3 annual measurement occasions. Structural equation modeling analyses indicated that coder ratings of children’s insecure responses to interparental conflict from a maternal interview predicted observer ratings of their difficulties with stage-salient tasks (i.e., emotion regulation, autonomy, resourceful problem solving) 1 year later after controlling for initial stage-salient task performance. Stage-salient task difficulties, in turn, predicted experimenter reports of children’s behavior problems 1 year later. Associations remained robust in the broader context of other pathways hypothesized in prevailing developmental cascade models.