Profiling Families in Conflict: Multigenerational Continuity in Conflict Predicts Deleterious Adolescent and Adult Outcomes

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The present study investigated the associations between multigenerational continuity in family conflict and current psychopathology symptoms and social impairment experienced by parents and adolescents. We sampled 246 families from a multigenerational, high-risk, longitudinal study of parents (G1s) and their children (G2s), followed from adolescence (Mage = 14.3 years, 57% female, 71% Caucasian, 26% Hispanic or Latino) to adulthood as well as the children of G2 targets (G3s; Mage = 12.1 years, 47% female, 51% Caucasian, 33% Hispanic or Latino). Family conflict was measured by composite latent variables incorporating mother, father, and adolescent reports in G1–G2 families and incorporating G2 target, G2 target’s spouse, and G3 adolescent report in G2–G3 families. Indicators of G2 and G3 impairment including psychopathology symptoms (e.g., internalizing, externalizing, and substance use symptoms) and social role impairment (e.g., marital satisfaction, parenting behavior) were predicted from G1–G2 family conflict, G2–G3 family conflict, and the interaction between G1–G2 and G2–G3 family conflict. Results indicate that G1–G2 family conflict uniquely predicted indicators of G2 and G3 psychopathology, as well as G2 social impairment, even after controlling for more temporally proximal G2–G3 family conflict. Results further indicate that for G2 externalizing, internalizing, and marital functioning outcomes, high G2–G3 family conflict was associated with highest G2 impairment when G1–G2 family conflict was also high. It appears that for many G2 outcomes the interactive effects of multigenerational conflict are associated with greater risk for impairment.

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