The ability to manage interpersonal conflict has a dramatic effect on individual development and personal relationships. Although some level of conflict is inherent in all relationships, persistent, destructive conflict has real and pervasive negative consequences. While researchers and couple therapists hypothesize that exposure to persistent parental conflict manifests itself in adverse relationship consequences for adult children, valid findings on the long-term effects have been constrained by a lack of longitudinal data. The proposed research will examine the influence of parental modeling and conflict behavior on children's ability to manage and negotiate conflict in close relationships and to maintain happy, stable relationships in adulthood. Specifically, the research will investigate whether marital conflict is transmitted across generations by examining if children who were exposed to continued and high levels of conflict and low marital quality are more likely to have conflict ridden, unhappy relationships as adults then children whose parents divorced or who remained in low conflict marriages. In addition, we will study the degree to which stressful family environments drive young adults from their parental homes through early engagement in romantic relationships and whether these early relationships are less likely to endure. We will improve upon previous research by using newly available longitudinal, bi-generational data from the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH) to shed light on the mechanisms through which exposure to parental conflict influences children's conflict resolution abilities and styles as they enter romantic relationships as adults. Thus, the proposed research aims to extend previous research on the intergenerational transmission of divorce and discord by examining a broader range of parental relationships, beyond the divorced versus intact family dichotomy, as well as by examining both early and later adult child relational outcomes and sex differences in these outcomes.
Effects of Parental Marital Discord on Adult Child Outcomes This research will help identify the pathways through which negative and positive parental relations may influence adult children's outcomes in their personal relationships. This research aims to disentangle the adverse effects of divorce versus marital conflict/quality on children's development of relationship skills. The research will provide a clearer picture of how unhealthy family environments may produce adult children with negative personal relationship outcomes.