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Out of balance? Positivity-negativity ratios in couples' interaction impact child adjustment


Zemp, Martina; Johnson, Matthew D; Bodenmann, Guy (2019). Out of balance? Positivity-negativity ratios in couples' interaction impact child adjustment. Developmental Psychology, 55(1):135-147.

Abstract

Parental conflict is a well-established predictor of child maladjustment. Most research, however, has not considered how the couple's positivity-negativity interaction ratio (i.e., the ability to compensate for negative behaviors with positive) may be linked with child adjustment. We examined interparental positivity-negativity interaction ratios reported by one partner as a predictor of child self-reported internalizing and externalizing problems using 3 waves of survey data gathered from 809 families across 5 years in the German Family Panel (pairfam) study. Latent class analysis revealed 4 distinct classes of parental positivity-negativity ratios evident at all 3 waves: (a) very high positivity-very low negativity, (b) high positivity-moderate negativity, (c) moderate positivity-low negativity, and (d) low positivity-very high negativity. Latent growth curve analyses revealed that children from parents in the low positivity-very high negativity ratio reported higher scores of internalizing problems across all waves compared with children from the other groups. This finding indicates that the impact of negative couple interactions on child internalizing problems is counterbalanced by the amount of positivity also present in parental relations. The study suggests consideration of positive and negative aspects of parental relations simultaneously is warranted in clinical practice or when studying the impact of parental couple dynamics on child development.

Abstract

Parental conflict is a well-established predictor of child maladjustment. Most research, however, has not considered how the couple's positivity-negativity interaction ratio (i.e., the ability to compensate for negative behaviors with positive) may be linked with child adjustment. We examined interparental positivity-negativity interaction ratios reported by one partner as a predictor of child self-reported internalizing and externalizing problems using 3 waves of survey data gathered from 809 families across 5 years in the German Family Panel (pairfam) study. Latent class analysis revealed 4 distinct classes of parental positivity-negativity ratios evident at all 3 waves: (a) very high positivity-very low negativity, (b) high positivity-moderate negativity, (c) moderate positivity-low negativity, and (d) low positivity-very high negativity. Latent growth curve analyses revealed that children from parents in the low positivity-very high negativity ratio reported higher scores of internalizing problems across all waves compared with children from the other groups. This finding indicates that the impact of negative couple interactions on child internalizing problems is counterbalanced by the amount of positivity also present in parental relations. The study suggests consideration of positive and negative aspects of parental relations simultaneously is warranted in clinical practice or when studying the impact of parental couple dynamics on child development.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Language:English
Date:January 2019
Deposited On:16 Jan 2019 14:18
Last Modified:16 Jan 2019 17:01
Publisher:American Psychological Association
ISSN:0012-1649
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1037/dev0000614
PubMed ID:30335431

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