Children and Marital Conflict: The Impact of Family Dispute and Resolution / Edition 1

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It has long been assumed that family fights have a negative effect on children. Recent findings from research and clinical practice indicate that it is not necessarily the presence of marital conflict that adversely affects children, but, more specifically, how disagreements are handled within the family. Reviewing the now extensive literature on the subject, this volume examines the impact of familial discord on children and presents strategies for clinicians to help parents resolve differences more effectively for the sake of their children, as well as their marriage.

Chapters consider the long-term impact of marital discord on children and relate this to what is known about the risk for the development of psychopathology. Reviewing the research on marital interactions in both distressed and nondistressed couples, the authors consider conflict styles of distressed marriages, the bases for marital distress, long-term consequences of marital anger and apathy, and better ways of fighting. The emotional, behavioral, and even physiological impact of interadult and interparental expressions of anger on bystanding children are also examined.

Other highlights include:
* Models of different styles of family and marital relations
* Up-to-date research on family processes
* Illustrative case examples
* Descriptions of children's responses in both laboratory and field studies
* Important, bottom-line prescriptions for therapists,
educators, and parents

While the review of the scientific evidence on these important questions is exhaustive, the information is presented so that it is accessible to students and parents as well as clinicians, researchers, and academics. This text functions as a resource for clinicians, providing information on clinical processes and outcomes; a guidebook for educators, policy makers, and parents especially in terms of the treatment of issues pertaining to constructive versus destructive methods of dispute; and a scholarly reference for academics and researchers in the child and family areas, offering a state-of-the-art review of current literature.

Discusses the long-term impact of marital discord on children/children as bystanders/etc.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This volume examines the impact of family discord on children and presents strategies for clinicians to help parents resolve differences more effectively for their marriage and their children. It is authoritative, readable, and practical... This book is important for child and adolescent psychiatrists." -- David W. Cline, M.D. Clinical Professor, University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis

"A useful basic introduction to the issues from marital conflict that effect children." --Nigel Alabaster, Greenwich Child Guidance Service, Plumstead Health Centre, London

"Extremely well-written for a variety of readers--students, professionals, paraprofessionals. Summarizes a huge body of literature."--Kelly S. Simpson, Washington & Lee University, Lexington, VA; Course: Family Conflict

"This is a remarkable and timely volume on the challenges that parental conflict poses for the social, emotional, and cognitive development of children, and ultimately for society as well. This scholarly account provides a cogent explication and distillation of research on outcomes of healthy and maladaptive anger and conflict. Academicians will appreciate the thorough, scientific treatment of the topic. Clinicians, educators, and parents will also find it valuable. The book is clearly written. It provides important information and insights about the unintentional problems we bequeath to our offspring as we become caught up in our own difficulties in partnered relationships. The authors rightly resist providing overly simplistic solutions to complex problems. At the same time they directly confront difficult questions about how parents might best deal with their conflict and anger toward each other, in ways that are adaptive, creative, and promote mature development. The importance of the need for children to witness resolution of conflict between parents is emphasized. This is a 'must-read' for those who wish to better understand conflict and coping in families." --Carolyn Zahn-Waxler, PhD, NIMH

"This book provides a timely, up to date review of research on family conflict, particularly interparental conflict, and child adjustment. Among the many attractive features of the book are the attention given to the child's perspective, discussion of how diverse methodologies can advance understanding, and clear guidelines for how the research can be used to inform parent education and prevention programs. This volume will be a valuable resource for researchers in family, developmental, and clinical psychology as well as scholars in family sociology, communication studies, and social work." --Frank D. Fincham, Ph.D., University of Illinois

"For more than 50 years, it has been known that marital discord and child behavior problems frequently co-occur within the same family. Why this association obtains has become a central focus of inquiry in a variety of fields of study, including developmental and clinical psychology. For the past decade, E. Mark Cummings has been a leader in this area of investigation, breaking ground with new investigatory techniques as well as original questions deserving of empirical and theoretical attention. In this volume, Cummings integrates his work on children's responses to inter-parental conflict and on the conditions under which such interpersonal discord does and does not undermine infants', children's, and adolescents' emotional well being with that pertaining to divorce, attachment, psychopathology, parenting, and child development more generally. In so doing, he succeeds in tying together areas of inquiry regarding family functioning and child development and dysfunction that all too frequently are discussed and considered in isolation. As a result, understanding of numerous concerns of clinical and developmental practitioners and researchers is substantially advanced in ways that should facilitate clinical treatment as well as scientific investigation. There can be little doubt that Cummings' careful and thorough scholarly analysis and synthesis will have long-lasting impact on those concerned with the well-being of children and families." --Jay Belsky. Ph.D., Professor of Human Development, Penn State University

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Product Details

Meet the Author

E. Mark Cummings, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology at West Virginia University. His numerous publications focus on the functioning of children in the family, and the significance of the family for children's adjustment and development. He is particularly concerned with the importance of emotional relationships and expressions. His work has been featured on 20/20, USA Today, CNN, and in the Washington Post and Parent's Magazine, among other media.

Patrick Davies, M.A., is a doctoral student at West Virginia University. His work and research interest focuses on the development of children within families.

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Table of Contents

1 Marital Conflict and Child Development 1
2 Conflict in the Marital Dyad 13
3 Children's Reactions to Marital Conflict 37
4 Effects of Specific Aspects of Marital Conflict on Children 62
5 Interparental Conflict and the Family 87
6 Methodology and Message 111
7 Conclusions, Implications, and Guidelines 131
References 151
Index 189
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