Child and Parent Perceptions of Interparental Relationship Conflict Predict Preschool Children's Adjustment

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Abstract

Interparental relationship conflict has consistently been linked to child adjustment problems, with children's perceptions of such conflict particularly predictive of their outcomes. Despite mounting evidence that preschool children can provide reliable and valid accounts of family functioning, little research has examined preschool children's perceptions of interparental conflict. The present study used a multiinformant design for both reports of interparental conflict (preschool children and their mothers and fathers) and reports of child adjustment (preschool children, their mothers and fathers, and their preschool teachers). Children completed pictorial measures of interparental conflict and of self-esteem that paralleled questionnaires completed by adult respondents. For both child behavior problems and child self-esteem, preschool children's perceptions of interparental conflict predicted their adjustment. Preschool children's reports of interparental conflict were significantly associated with their self-esteem and with both parents' and teachers' reports of child behavior problems, and this association remained significant when controlling for parents' reports of interparental conflict. Further, the interaction between parents' reports and children's reports of interparental conflict added unique variance to the prediction of preschool teachers' reports of children's behavior problems.

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