Both maternal and paternal parental involvement are critical for child development. What is unclear, nonetheless, is how parents’ own relationships contribute to the growth of children. Addressing the question, we predicted marital satisfaction strengthens parenting efficacy, making parental involvement more effective in increasing children’s functioning. To test the hypothesis, we analyzed a nationally representative large-sample survey of 3-year-olds (N = 2164), wherein their language, cognitive, social, and emotional development, maternal and paternal parental involvement, as well as the marital satisfaction of the parents were assessed. The results supported the predictions by showing the critical role of fathers—the mother parents through the father in a satisfying marriage, more than she does in a dissatisfying marriage, and their young children subsequently grow better when their parents are satisfying partners. Together, the findings reveal potential mechanisms through which well-being may be passed down from one generation to the next.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
In the present research, by family, we only refer to heterosexual homogamous family, because it is how family is defined in the secondary data we used.
Allemand, M., Amberg, I., Zimprich, D., & Fincham, F. D. (2007). The Role of Trait Forgiveness and Relationship Satisfaction in Episodic Forgiveness. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 26(2), 199–217. https://doi.org/10.1521/jscp.2007.26.2.199
Barger, M. M., Kim, E. M., Kuncel, N. R., & Pomerantz, E. M. (2019). The relation between parents’ involvement in children’s schooling and children’s adjustment: A meta-analysis. Psychological bulletin, 145(9), 855. https://doi.org/10.1037/bul0000201
Barnett, R. C., Marshall, N. L., & Pleck, J. H. (1992). Adult Son-Parent Relationships and Their Associations With Sons' Psychological Distress. Journal of Family Issues, 13(4), 505–525. https://doi.org/10.1177/019251392013004007
Belsky, J. (1984). The Determinants of Parenting: A Process Model. Child Development, 55(1), 83–96. https://doi.org/10.2307/1129836
Berndt, T. J., Cheung, P. C., Lau, S., Hau, K.-T., & Lew, W. J. F. (1993). Perceptions of parenting in mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong: Sex differences and societal differences. Developmental Psychology, 29(1), 156–164. https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-1622.214.171.124
Bornstein, M. H. (2015). Children's parents. In Handbook of child psychology and developmental science: Ecological settings and processes, Vol. 4, 7th ed. (pp. 55-132). John Wiley & Sons Inc.
Bőthe, B., Toth-Kiraly, I., Demetrovics, Z., & Orosz, G. (2017). The pervasive role of sex mindset: Beliefs about the malleability of sexual life is linked to higher levels of relationship satisfaction and sexual satisfaction and lower levels of problematic pornography use. Personality and Individual Differences, 117, 15–22. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2017.05.030
Bowlby, J. (1982). Attachment and loss: Retrospect and prospect. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 52(4), 664–678. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1939-0025.1982.tb01456.x
Brianda, M. E., Roskam, I., Gross, J. J., Franssen, A., Kapala, F., Gérard, F., & Mikolajczak, M. (2020). Treating Parental Burnout: Impact of Two Treatment Modalities on Burnout Symptoms, Emotions, Hair Cortisol, and Parental Neglect and Violence. Psychother Psychosom, 89(5), 330–332. https://doi.org/10.1159/000506354
Burt, K. B., Obradović, J., Long, J. D., & Masten, A. S. (2008). The Interplay of Social Competence and Psychopathology Over 20 Years: Testing Transactional and Cascade Models. Child Development, 79(2), 359–374. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2007.01130.x
Bus, A. G., & van Ijzendoorn, M. H. (1988). Mother-Child Interactions, Attachment, and Emergent Literacy: A Cross-Sectional Study. Child Development, 59(5), 1262–1272. https://doi.org/10.2307/1130489
Cabrera, N., Tamis-LeMonda, C. S., Bradley, R. H., Hofferth, S., & Lamb, M. E. (2000). Fatherhood in the Twenty-First Century. Child Development, 71(1), 127–136. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8624.00126
Chang, C. -J. (2019). Kids in Taiwan: National Longitudinal Study of Child Development and Care (KIT): KIT-M36 at 36 months old (D00168) [data file]. Available from Survey Research Data Archive, Academia Sinica. https://doi.org/10.6141/TW-SRDA-D00168-2
Chang, L., Lansford, J. E., Schwartz, D., & Farver, J. M. (2004). Marital quality, maternal depressed affect, harsh parenting, and child externalising in Hong Kong Chinese families. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 28(4), 311–318. https://doi.org/10.1080/01650250344000523
Chao, R. K. (1994). Beyond parental control and authoritarian parenting style: Understanding Chinese parenting through the cultural notion of training. Child Development, 65(4), 1111. https://doi.org/10.2307/1131308
Chen, X., Dong, Q., & Zhou, H. (1997). Authoritative and authoritarian parenting practices and social and school performance in Chinese children. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 21(4), 855–873. https://doi.org/10.1080/016502597384703
Chuang, S. S., Glozman, J., Green, D. S., & Rasmi, S. (2018). Parenting and family relationships in Chinese families: A critical ecological approach. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 10(2), 367–383. https://doi.org/10.1111/jftr.12257
Crowell, J. A., & Feldman, S. S. (1988). Mothers' Internal Models of Relationships and Children's Behavioral and Developmental Status: A Study of Mother-Child Interaction. Child Development, 59(5), 1273–1285. https://doi.org/10.2307/1130490
Engfer, A. (1988). The interrelatedness of marriage and the mother-child relationship. In Relationships within families: Mutual influences (pp. 104-118). Oxford University Press.
Erol, R. Y., & Orth, U. (2014). Development of self-esteem and relationship satisfaction in couples: Two longitudinal studies. Developmental Psychology, 50(9), 2291–2303. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0037370
Faircloth, C. (2014). Intensive Parenting and the Expansion of Parenting. In Parenting Culture Studies (pp. 25-50). Palgrave Macmillan, London. doi: https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137304612_2
Feldman, S. S., Wentzel, K. R., Weinberger, D. A., & Munson, J. A. (1990). Marital satisfaction of parents of preadolescent boys and its relationship to family and child functioning. Journal of Family Psychology, 4(2), 213–234. https://doi.org/10.1037/0893-3126.96.36.199
Fishman, E. A., & Meyers, S. A. (2000). Marital Satisfaction and Child Adjustment: Direct and Mediated Pathways. Contemporary Family Therapy, 22(4), 437–452. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1007848901640
Flouri, E., & Buchanan, A. (2003). The Role of Mother Involvement and Father Involvement in Adolescent Bullying Behavior. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 18(6), 634–644. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260503251129
Fuller-Iglesias, H. R. (2015). Social ties and psychological well-being in late life: the mediating role of relationship satisfaction. Aging & Mental Health, 19(12), 1103–1112. https://doi.org/10.1080/13607863.2014.1003285
Fung, H., Li, J., & Lam, C. K. (2017). Multi-faceted discipline strategies of Chinese parenting. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 41(4), 472–481. https://doi.org/10.1177/0165025417690266
Gordon, K. C., Hughes, F. M., Tomcik, N. D., Dixon, L. J., & Litzinger, S. C. (2009). Widening spheres of impact: The role of forgiveness in marital and family functioning. Journal of Family Psychology, 23(1), 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0014354
Hosokawa, R., & Katsura, T. (2017). Marital relationship, parenting practices, and social skills development in preschool children. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 11, 2. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13034-016-0139-y
Hubert, S., & Aujoulat, I. (2018). Parental Burnout: When Exhausted Mothers Open Up [Original Research]. Frontiers in Psychology, 9(1021). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01021
Katz, L. F., & Gottman, J. M. (1993). Patterns of marital conflict predict children's internalizing and externalizing behaviors. Developmental psychology, 29(6), 940–950. https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-16188.8.131.520
Katz, L. F., & Woodin, E. M. (2002). Hostility, Hostile Detachment, and Conflict Engagement in Marriages: Effects on Child and Family Functioning. Child Development, 73(2), 636–652. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8624.00428
King, P. S., Berg, C. A., Butner, J., Butler, J. M., & Wiebe, D. J. (2014). Longitudinal trajectories of parental involvement in Type 1 diabetes and adolescents’ adherence. Health Psychology, 33(5), 424–432. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0032804
Kline, S. L., & Zhang, S. (2009). The role of relational communication characteristics and filial piety in mate preferences: Cross-cultural comparisons of Chinese and US college students. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 40(3), 325–353. https://doi.org/10.3138/jcfs.40.3.325
Laible, D. J., & Thompson, R. A. (2000). Mother–Child Discourse, Attachment Security, Shared Positive Affect, and Early Conscience Development. Child Development, 71(5), 1424–1440. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8624.00237
Lam, B. C. P., Cross, S. E., Wu, T.-F., Yeh, K.-H., Wang, Y.-C., & Su, J. C. (2016). What do you want in a marriage? Examining marriage ideals in Taiwan and the United States. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 42(6), 703–722. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167216637842
Lamb, M. E. (1975). Fathers: Forgotten Contributors to Child Development. Human Development, 18(4), 245–266. https://doi.org/10.1159/000271493
Lamb, M. E. (2010). The Role of the Father in Child Development (5th ed.). Wiley.
Lan, P.-C. (2018). Raising global families: Parenting, immigration, and class in Taiwan and the US. Stanford University Press.
Lau, S., Lew, W. J. F., Hau, K.-T., Cheung, P. C., & Berndt, T. J. (1990). Relations among perceived parental control, warmth, indulgence, and family harmony of Chinese in mainland China. Developmental Psychology, 26(4), 674–677. https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-16184.108.40.2064
Luo, R., Tamis-LeMonda, C. S., & Song, L. (2013). Chinese parents’ goals and practices in early childhood. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28(4), 843–857. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2013.08.001
Lavner, J. A., Karney, B. R., & Bradbury, T. N. (2016). Does Couples' Communication Predict Marital Satisfaction, or Does Marital Satisfaction Predict Communication? Journal of Marriage and Family, 78(3), 680–694. https://doi.org/10.1111/jomf.12301
Liu, H.-M., Chen, P.-H., Huang, S.-C., Chen, Y.-W., & Chang, C.-J. (2018). Inventory of Language Development for 0-6 Years Old Children: A Parental Questionnaire. Psychological Testing, 65(1), 95 - 123. https://www.airitilibrary.com/Publication/alPublicationJournal?PublicationID=16094905
Martinez Gutierrez, N., & Cribbie, R. (in press). Incidence and interpretation of statistical suppression in psychological research. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science / Revue canadienne des sciences du comportement. https://doi.org/10.1037/cbs0000267
Markiewicz, D., Doyle, A. B., & Brendgen, M. (2001). The quality of adolescents' friendships: Associations with mothers' interpersonal relationships, attachments to parents and friends, and prosocial behaviors. Journal of adolescence (London, England), 24(4), 429–445. https://doi.org/10.1006/jado.2001.0374
McHale, J. P. (2007). Charting the bumpy road of coparenthood : Understanding the challenges of family life. Zero to Three.
Mikolajczak, M., Gross, J. J., & Roskam, I. (2019). Parental Burnout: What Is It, and Why Does It Matter? Clinical Psychological Science, 7(6), 1319–1329. https://doi.org/10.1177/2167702619858430
Pedro, M. F., Ribeiro, T., & Shelton, K. H. (2012). Marital satisfaction and partners' parenting practices: The mediating role of coparenting behavior. Journal of Family Psychology, 26(4), 509–522. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0029121
Pianta, R. C., Nimetz, S. L., & Bennett, E. (1997). Mother-child relationships, teacher-child relationships, and school outcomes in preschool and kindergarten. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 12(3), 263–280. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0885-2006(97)90003-X
Planalp, E. M., Braungart-Rieker, J. M., Lickenbrock, D. M., & Zentall, S. R. (2013). Trajectories of Parenting During Infancy: The Role of Infant Temperament and Marital Adjustment for Mothers and Fathers. Infancy, 18(s1), E16–E45. https://doi.org/10.1111/infa.12021
Roskam, I., Brianda, M.-E., & Mikolajczak, M. (2018). A Step Forward in the Conceptualization and Measurement of Parental Burnout: The Parental Burnout Assessment (PBA) [Original Research]. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 758. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00758
Sarkadi, A., Kristiansson, R., Oberklaid, F., & Bremberg, S. (2008). Fathers' involvement and children's developmental outcomes: a systematic review of longitudinal studies. Acta Paediatrica, 97(2), 153–158. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1651-2227.2007.00572.x
Schoppe-Sullivan, S. J., McBride, B. A., & Ho, M.-H. R. (2004). Unidimensional Versus Multidimensional Perspectives on Father Involvement. Fathering, 2(2), 147–163.
Sénéchal, M., & LeFevre, J. A. (2002). Parental involvement in the development of children’s reading skill: A five‐year longitudinal study. Child Development, 73(2), 445–460. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8624.00417
Shek, D. T. (1997). Parent-child relationship and parental well-being of Chinese parents in Hong Kong. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 21(4), 459–473. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0147-1767(97)00020-5
Shek, D. T. L. (1998). Linkage between marital quality and parent-child relationship: A longitudinal study in the Chinese culture. Journal of Family Issues, 19(6), 687–704. https://doi.org/10.1177/019251398019006002
Shek, D. T. L. (2007). Perceived parental control based on indigenous Chinese parental control concepts in adolescents in Hong Kong. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 35(2), 123–137. https://doi.org/10.1080/01926180600553480
Shek, D. T. L., & Sun, R. C. F. (2014). Parenting in Hong Kong: Traditional Chinese cultural roots and contemporary phenomena. In H. Selin (Ed.), Parenting Across Cultures (Vol. 7, pp. 25–38). Springer Netherlands. doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-7503-9_3
Teubert, D., & Pinquart, M. (2010). The Association Between Coparenting and Child Adjustment: A Meta-Analysis. Parenting, 10(4), 286–307. https://doi.org/10.1080/15295192.2010.492040
Toro-morn, M., & Sprecher, S. (2003). A cross-cultural comparison of mate preferences among university students: The United States vs. The People’s Republic of China (PRC). Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 34(2), 151–170. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41603870.
Updegraff, K. A., McHale, S. M., Crouter, A. C., & Kupanoff, K. (2001). Parents' Involvement in Adolescents' Peer Relationships: A Comparison of Mothers' and Fathers' Roles. Journal of Marriage and Family, 63(3), 655–668. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2001.00655.x
Van Egeren, L. A. (2004). The development of the coparenting relationship over the transition to parenthood. The Infant Mental Health Journal, 25(5), 453–477. https://doi.org/10.1002/imhj.20019
Wang, S.-M., Lee, J.-R., & Chang, C.-J. (2015). The Behavioral Rating Inventory of Cognitive Development for 2-5 Year Olds: A Parent-Completed Assessment. Psychological Testing, 62(4), 279-302. http://www.AiritiLibrary.com/Publication/Index/16094905-201512-201603110031-201603110031-279-302
Wilson, K. R., & Prior, M. R. (2011). Father involvement and child well-being. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 47(7), 405–407. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1440-1754.2010.01770.x
Wu, J. C.-L., & Chiang, T. (2015). Family structure transitions and early childhood development in Taiwan: Evidence from a population-based birth cohort study. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 39(3), 275–284. https://doi.org/10.1177/0165025414544230
Conflict of Interest and Ethical Statement
Given the current research used online publicly available, deidentified secondary data as indicated in the manuscript, it complies with the Taiwanese ethical standards and requirements as well as those of the APA even though we did not request for an ethics review of the research. We report no conflicts of interest.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Chen, MT., Lin, GX., Lu, C. et al. Good Partners, Good Parents: Parent Relationship Satisfaction Predicts Parenting Efficacy for Young Children. Applied Research Quality Life 17, 2405–2422 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11482-022-10043-1