Date of Award

Fall 2002

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Grych, John

Second Advisor

de St. Aubin, Ed.

Third Advisor

Malin, Michelle


Children's exposure to interparental conflict has been linked to a variety of adjustment problems. However, little is known about the variables and processes that mediate and moderate this relationship, an area that has significant theoretical and clinical relevance. The present study addressed this limitation by using multiple regression analysis to test proposed moderators and mediators of child adjustment, in order to understand how they interact to shape the adjustment of children from violent homes. Using a community sample of 61 7-12 year-old children, mothers, and teachers, this study examined selected theoretically-derived, potentially modifiable variables for moderating and/or mediating roles. These intra- and interpersonal variables included appraisals of threat and self-blame, emotional reactivity, conflict schemas, parent-child conflict, parenting behaviors, and maternal depression. Overall, results indicated that child emotional reactivity was the primary mediator of the association between interparental conflict and child externalizing problems. However, the association between interparental conflict and child internalizing problems was mediated by several influences, including emotional reactivity, appraisals of threat, appraisals of self-blame, and maternal depression. Specifically, when using child reports of interparental conflict, an overall model including appraisals of threat, self-blame, and emotional reactivity, accounted for 78% of the variance in child externalizing problems and 83% of the variance in child internalizing problems. When using maternal reports of conflict, a model including appraisals of threat and emotional reactivity accounted for 79% of the variance in externalizing problems, and with the addition of maternal depression to the model, accounted for 93% of the variance in internalizing problems. Maternal depression and parent-child conflict were identified as significant moderating variables, and specific pathways of influence were explicated. The mediating and moderating processes by which exposure to interparental conflict may lead to child maladjustment were discussed in the context of the theoretical and clinical implications of the results.



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