Families and the Origins of Child Behavior Problems


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This article reviews recent research into the relationship between family variables and child behavior. Although a diversity of factors may be associated with the development and maintenance of conduct/oppositional disorders in children, of primary importance are the moment‐to‐moment interactions that the child has with his or her primary caregivers. These are often marked by coercive, aggressive behaviors that may be functional for parents and children within the family system. However, the likelihood that parents will engage in coercive interactions with the child is also related to the latter's personal adjustment, which, in turn, is often dependent upon the parents' perceptions of the quality of marital and social support available to them. The goal for clinicians working with families of oppositional/conduct‐disordered children is to retain the demonstrated efficacy of direct intervention into parent‐child interactions while developing methods of assessment and treatment that attend to broader family variables, for example, marital discord, interfering in‐laws, and social isolation that may be functionally related to the occurrence of coercive parent‐child interactions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341-357
Number of pages17
JournalFamily Process
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1987
Externally publishedYes


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