Prevention Effects on Trajectories of African American Adolescents’ Exposure to Interparental Conflict and Depressive Symptoms

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Abstract

The present study investigates the trajectory of children’s exposure to interparental conflict during adolescence, its effects on adolescents’ psychological adjustment, as well as the ability of a family-centered prevention program to alter this trajectory. A total of 331 African American couples with an adolescent or preadolescent child participated in a randomized control trial of the Promoting Strong African American Families program, a newly developed program targeting couple and cocaregiving processes. Using a multi-informant, latent growth curve approach, child exposure to interparental conflict during adolescence was found to be stable over a period of 2 years among families in the control group, but significantly declined among families in the treatment condition. Rates of change were significantly different between intervention and control groups based on parents’ report of youth exposure to interparental conflict, but not for child’s report. Structural equation models found trajectory parameters of interparental conflict predicted changes in adolescent depressive symptoms, with increasing rates of changes in conflict associated with increases in adolescent internalizing symptoms over the 2-year duration of the study. Finally, a significant indirect effect was identified linking treatment, changes in parents’ reports of child exposure to interparental conflict, and adolescent depressive symptoms. The implications for research and intervention are discussed.

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