The focal problem of the proposed investigation is the identification of the processes by which marital conflict is linked to child behavior problems of young boys and girls. A multimethod measurement strategy is proposed which would create a data base of synchronized video and autonomic data from families who vary in marital satisfaction. The proposed study is longitudinal; 120 families will be followed from the 5 to 7 year period of their preschool child's life. A variety of child outcomes will be assessed, including cognitive, social (peer interaction), and behavioral (parent and teacher ratings). The study is based on a theory referred to as social DPA theory; DPA refers to a construct, Diffuse Physiological Arousal. The proposed investigation seeks to contribute to two areas of the psychological literature: (1) the transfer of marital discord from the marital to the parent-child and peer systems, and (2) emotional development in preschool children. This study will employ a two-stage sampling procedure. Stage One will begin by recruiting a relatively large pool of intact families with a preschool child, and then screen for different levels of marital satisfaction. Stage Two involves a further classification of families high in marital discord into those who do and do not transfer negative affect from the marital to the parent/child interaction. The determination of whether transfer has occurred will be done using an on-line coder, who will code the amount of negative, positive and neutral affect during the marital and parent-child interaction sessions. The experimental design will be a 3 x 2 design, with one factor being Child Gender (Male, Female) and the other factor being Family Classification. Families will be classified into three groups: (1) High Marital Satisfaction, (2) Low Marital Satisfaction and No Transfer of Marital Discord to the child, and (3) Low Marital Satisfaction and Transfer of Marital Discord to the child.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Method to Extend Research in Time (MERIT) Award (R37)
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University of Washington
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