The effects of interparental conflict on adolescent adjustment: A path analysis

Jeanne Marie Herzog, Marquette University


This investigation analyzed the relationships among perception of interparental conflict, explanatory style, and psychological adjustment in a sample of late adolescents. Two theoretical constructs have been presented as a basis for this study. First, as suggested by Grych and Fincham (1990), this study contributed to the secondary research phase in the area of interparental conflict by exploring the cognitive mechanisms underlying the effects of perceived interparental conflict on adolescent well-being. Second, as suggested by the diathesis-stress model of learned helplessness (Abramson, Seligman & Teasdale, 1978), explanatory style was examined as a modifier for the effects of negative life events on adolescents. To investigate what role explanatory style plays in the effects of interparental conflict on adolescent adjustment, Baron and Kenny's (1986) tests for mediation and moderation were applied to the independent variable (interparental conflict), the dependent variables (self-reported depression, self-reported anxiety and self-esteem), and the proposed mediator/moderator variable (explanatory style). With data collected from a sample of 201 college-age subjects a path analysis was conducted. Preliminary analyses revealed significant correlations among all the variables. Multivariate analyses found explanatory style to be a mediator for the effects of interparental conflict on self-esteem. Secondary analyses exploring self-esteem as an exogenous variable revealed self-esteem to be a moderator for the effects of interparental conflict on self-reported depression. These findings allow estimation of a causal model implying that perception of interparental conflict engenders a low self-esteem through explanatory style, and then interacts with self-esteem to lead to depression. Conversely, it can be inferred that high self-esteem in adolescents may buffer the negative effects of perceived interparental conflict on psychological adjustment. Another finding that shows self-esteem as a mediator of the effects of explanatory style on depression and anxiety offers support for the learned helplessness model of depression. These findings have implications for research as well as prevention and intervention toward child and adolescent mental health. Limitations, research and intervention implications, as well as directions for the future, were discussed.

Recommended Citation

Herzog, Jeanne Marie, "The effects of interparental conflict on adolescent adjustment: A path analysis" (1997). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9811389.