A longitudinal study of interparental conflict, emotional and behavioral reactivity, and preschoolers' adjustment problems among low- income families

Erin M. Ingoldsby, Daniel S. Shaw, Elizabeth B. Owens, Emily B. Winslow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

60 Scopus citations


Researchers have begun to develop models that explain the processes by which interparental conflict impacts children's adjustment. The present study tested a model based on emotional security theory. The longitudinal relations among interparental conflict, boys' reactions to conflict, and internalizing and externalizing problems were examined in a sample of 129 mother-son dyads from low-income, 2-parent families from the time sons were age 2 to 5. Results indicated that children exposed to interparental conflict were more likely to have concurrent and later behavior problems and that patterns of interparental conflict across time made unique contributions in predicting later problems. Children's emotional reactivity in response to conflict had no direct relation to interparental conflict and only modest relations to behavior problems. However, interparental conflict and reactivity factors interacted to predict behavior problems at ages 3 1/2 and 5. Thus, some support was demonstrated for emotional reactivity as a moderator in the development of young children's behavior problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)343-356
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 1 1999



  • Behavior problems
  • Interparental conflict
  • Reactivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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