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Parental Problem Drinking and Maladaptive Personality Features in Children: The Role of Marital Conflict

Abstract

The personality characteristics of children of exposed to parental problem drinking have been of interest to clinicians and researchers for several decades, but personality research on this population often focuses on identifying a unique cluster of adult personality traits. The current study adopts a cutting-edge dimensional approach to understanding personality pathology as extreme variants of the five factor model, and examines pathways of risk to personality pathology through marital conflict and emotional insecurity. Participants were 199 two-parent families with a child between the ages of 6 and 12 years. Parents completed questionnaire measures of their problem drinking, marital conflict, child emotional insecurity (i.e., emotional reactivity to conflict), and child maladaptive personality traits. Structural equation models found an indirect pathway from mother and father problem drinking to pathological child disagreeableness, introversion, emotional instability, and compulsivity via greater mother destructive marital conflict behavior and child emotional reactivity to conflict. There was also some evidence that this pathway of effects was stronger for girls than for boys. Findings support the use of a dimensional approach to understanding maladaptive personality among individuals exposed to parental problem drinking.

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Acknowledgements

This study was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R21HD062833).

Funding

Funding was provided by Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (Grant Number R21HD062833).

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Correspondence to Peggy S. Keller.

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Keller, P.S., Widiger, T.A. & El-Sheikh, M. Parental Problem Drinking and Maladaptive Personality Features in Children: The Role of Marital Conflict. Child Psychiatry Hum Dev (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10578-022-01340-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10578-022-01340-9

Keywords

  • Parental problem drinking
  • Marital conflict
  • Personality
  • Five factor model
  • Emotional security