Crossover Effects Among Parental Hostility and Parent–Child Relationships During the Preschool Period

Abstract

Parental hostility may have widespread effects across members of the family, whereby one parent’s hostility might disrupt the other parent’s ability to maintain a positive relationship with his or her children. The present study prospectively examined crossover effects of parental hostility on parent–child relationship quality in a sample of 210 families. At child ages 3, 4, and 5, mothers and fathers completed questionnaires assessing feelings of hostility. In addition, mother–child and father–child dyadic relationship quality were coded at each age during naturalistic home observations. Results from structural equation analyses indicated that mother and father hostility were relatively stable over the 2 years period. Further, results were consistent with notions of fathering vulnerability, such that the father–child relationship might be especially susceptible to parental hostility. Possible compensatory processes, wherein mothers may compensate for father hostility, were also explored. Child and parent gender add further complexity to the results, as the father–son relationship appears most susceptible to crossover effects of parental hostility, whereas the father–daughter relationship might be somewhat protected in the early childhood period. Findings from the current investigation highlight the need for broader perspectives on family functioning, considering influences across family subsystems and the effects of both parent and child gender.

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Correspondence to Rebecca P. Newland.

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Newland, R.P., Ciciolla, L. & Crnic, K.A. Crossover Effects Among Parental Hostility and Parent–Child Relationships During the Preschool Period. J Child Fam Stud 24, 2107–2119 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-014-0012-7

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Keywords

  • Parenting
  • Parent–child relationships
  • Hostility
  • Fathering
  • Crossover