What About the Kids? Parenting and Child Adjustment in the Context of Couple Therapy

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Abstract

Little research examines parenting and children's adjustment when couples engage in therapy. We examined how couples with and without children improve with couple therapy and whether they also report improvements in parenting and child adjustment. With up to twenty six sessions of couple therapy, 134 couples, 68 of whom had children, showed improved marital satisfaction during treatment, which was ultimately maintained over the 2-year follow-up, regardless of whether they had children. Couples married relatively longer, both with and without children, evidenced greater improvement. Couples with children reported less conflict over child rearing and better child adjustment during treatment, but only improvements in the former were maintained. Conflict over child rearing mediated the relationship between marital distress and child adjustment over therapy and the 2-year follow-up. These preliminary results suggest that couples in therapy may decrease their conflict over child rearing during treatment and they may be able to maintain these gains for at least two years following treatment; moreover, over the course of treatment, this decreased conflict is tied to improved child adjustment.

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