Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review

, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 319–335 | Cite as

Influences of Marital Conflict on Child Adjustment: Review of Theory and Research

  • Daniel M. Zimet
  • Theodore Jacob


This review summarizes the literature on the relationship between marital conflict and child maladjustment with an emphasis on variables that qualify, explain the association, or both. Following a historical review, the modest findings on the strength of the association between marital conflict and child maladjustment is explored. The definition of marital conflict is clarified through specification of its various dimensions (frequency, intensity, content, resolution). The role of variables that serve to moderate and/or mediate the relationship between marital conflict and child maladjustment are elaborated. Mediating models include exposure theories (Modeling, Cognitive–Contextual effects: appraisal of threat and blame, and Emotional Insecurity) and changes in the parent–child relationship (Spillover). Variables that moderate or qualify the relationship include children's cognitions and behaviors, contextual factors, and demographic differences. A model is presented summarizing these mechanisms. Research recommendations are proposed and the clinical implications of this literature are addressed.

marital conflict child adjustment development 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel M. Zimet
    • 1
  • Theodore Jacob
    • 2
  1. 1.Pacific Graduate School of PsychologyPalo Alto
  2. 2.Palo Alto Veterans Administration Health Care SystemUSA

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