Parents’ Relationship Quality and Children’s Externalizing Problems: The Moderating Role of Mother–Child Relations and Family Socio-demographic Background
- 282 Downloads
This study investigates the extent to which parents’ relationship quality affects children’s externalizing problems and whether the quality of the mother–child relationship and the family socio-demographic background moderate this association. We use data from a nationally representative sample of UK children (the Millennium Cohort Study) and OLS regressions models. We find that parents’ relationship quality is clearly related to children’s externalizing problems at ages 3 and 5 years and that the quality of mother–child relationships explains a substantial part of this association. Notably, a reported warm relationship with the mother does not reduce the detrimental effect of poor parental relationship problems, whereas a conflictual relationship exacerbates it. The effect of parents’ relationship quality is the same for children from different ethnic and marital status backgrounds, as well as for mother’s education and child’s gender, but is greatest amongst poorer children. At age 5, poor children with the lowest level of parents’ relationship quality have an externalizing score of 7.21 while poor children with the highest level have a score of 4.16; a 3 point difference. In contrast, among rich children, those with the lowest level of parent relationship quality have an externalizing score of 6.16 while those with the highest level have a score of 4.01; a difference of 2.15 points. These findings suggest that policies and intervention programs that promote parents’ relationship quality are likely to be beneficial for children from different family contexts, but especially for those from poor families.
KeywordsParents’ relationship quality Maternal representations of mother–child relationship Family socio-demographic background Children’s externalizing problems UK Millennium Cohort Study
This study was funded by Postdoctoral Program 2012 of Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (CSO2015-69439-R) and by Abat Oliba University and “La Caixa” Foundation (project PROFAM).
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.
- Acquah, D., Sellers, R., Stock, L., & Harold, G. (2017). Inter-parental conflict and outcomes for children in the context of poverty and disadvantage. Early Intervention Foundation. http://www.eif.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/interparental-conflict-children-poverty-economic-pressure_April2017.pdf. Accessed 6 May 2017.
- Adams, N., Barton, A., Bray, S., Johnson, G., & Matejic, P. (2010). Households below average income: An analysis of the income distribution 1994/95–2008/09. London: Department for Work and Pensions.Google Scholar
- Callanan, M., Hudson, R., Husain, F., & Robert, E. (2017). Exploring parental relationship support: A qualitative study. Early Intervention Foundation. http://www.eif.org.uk/publication/exploring-parental-relationship-support-a-qualitative-study/. Accessed 6 Jun 2017.
- Carlson, M. J. (2007). Trajectories of couple relationship quality after childbirth: Does marriage matter. Center for Research on Child Wellbeing Working Paper. Accessed April 1, 2017 from http://crcw.princeton.edu/workingpapers/wp07-11-ff.pdf.
- Cummings, E. M., & Davies, P. T. (2011). Marital conflict and children: An emotional security perspective. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Doherty, P., Stott, A., & Kinder, K. (2004). Delivering services to hard to reach families in On Track areas: Definition, consultation and needs assessment. Development and Practice Report, 15. Accessed March 1, 2017 from https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/abstractdb/AbstractDBDetails.aspx?id=205210.
- Doubell, L., Stock, L., & Acquah, D. (2016). Inter-parental relationship support services available in the UK: Rapid review of evidence. http://www.eif.org.uk/publication/inter-parental-relationship-support-services-available-in-the-uk-rapid-review-of-evidence/. Accessed 6 Apr 2017.
- Frazer, H. (2016). Prevention and early intervention services to address children at risk of poverty. In Synthesis report. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.Google Scholar
- Gomulak-Cavicchio, B. M. (2010). Talking to children about interparental disagreements: A longitudinal examination of the multiple determinants of maternal post-conflict communication. University of Rochester.Google Scholar
- Goodman, A., Lamping, D. L., & Ploubidis, G. B. (2010). When to use broader internalising and externalising subscales instead of the hypothesised five subscales on the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ): Data from British parents, teachers and children. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 38, 1179–1191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Harold, G., Acquah, D., Sellers, R., Chowdry, H., & Feinstein, L. (2016). What works to enhance inter-parental relationships and improve outcomes for children. Early Intervention Foundation. http://dera.ioe.ac.uk/25869/1/what-works-to-enhance-inter-parental-relationships.pdf. Accessed 2 Apr 2017.
- McLoyd, V. C., Harper, C. I., & Copeland, N. L. (2001). Ethnic minority status, interparental conflict, and child adjustment. In J. H. Grych & F. D. Fincham (Eds.), Interparental conflict and child development: Theory, research, and application (pp. 98–125). New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Pianta, E. C. (1995). Child-parent relationship scale. Charlottesville: University of Virginia.Google Scholar
- Powell, D. S., Fixsen, D. L., & Dunlap, G. (2003). Pathways to service utilization: A synthesis of evidence relevant to young children with challenging behavior. Tampa: Center for Evidence-Based Practice.Google Scholar
- Rutter, M. (1979). Protective factors in children’s responses to stress and disadvantage. Annals of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore, 8, 324–338.Google Scholar
- Schechter, D. S., Coates, S. W., Kaminer, T., Coots, T., Zeanah, C. H. Jr., Davies, M., et al. (2008). Distorted maternal mental representations and atypical behavior in a clinical sample of violence-exposed mothers and their toddlers. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 9, 123–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Schmidt, S. J., & Schimmelmann, B. G. (2015). Mechanisms of change in psychotherapy for children and adolescents: Current state, clinical implications, and methodological and conceptual recommendations for mediation analysis. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 24, 249–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Stern, D. (1995). The motherhood constellation. In D. Stern (Ed.), The motherhood constellation: A unified view of parent-infant psychotherapy (pp. 171–190). New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
- van der Valk, J. C., van den Oord, E. J. C. G., Verhulst, F. C., & Boomsma, D. I. (2003). Genetic and environmental contributions to stability and change in children’s internalizing and externalizing problems. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 42, 1212–1220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Wilkinson, R., & Pickett, K. (2010). The spirit level: Why equality is better for everyone. London: Penguin.Google Scholar