Parental marital quality and family conflict

Longitudinal effects on adolescents from divorcing and non-divorcing families

Ailsa Burns*, Rosemary Dunlop

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Citations (Scopus)


Recent studies by Amato and Booth (1997) and Wallerstein, Blakeslee and Lewis (2000) have reported that the children of highly-conflicted parents who remained together, and the children of low-conflict parents who separated, were as adults more poorly adjusted than others, and less successful in themselves forming and maintaining intimate relationships. These associations were explored in a longitudinal study of 67 adolescents aged 13-16 when first interviewed, at which time half the families involved were at the point of divorce. Mothers, fathers and adolescents initially rated the level of conflict in the family, and parents also rated their marital adjustment and their satisfaction with marital conflict resolution (in the case of the divorce group, at the time just before the decision to separate). The adolescents also reported whether they got involved in their parent's disagreements, and completed standardised measures of self-image, anxiety and depression. Ten years later the now-adult children repeated these items, along with measures of readiness for intimacy and wariness about relationships, and some further family conflict items. Family conflict at Time 1 (as perceived by the child) predicted self-image and anxiety at Year 1, but not at Year 10. However, the adult children's current rating of happiness in the family of origin predicted current self-image. As adults, daughters were more anxious than sons, and daughters who had previously rated their families as highly conflicted were more depressed than other sample members. Parent's marital status was relevant only to wariness about relationships. Children from the divorce group were more wary overall. Their level of wariness was unaffected by their Year 1 reports of involvement in parental disagreements, but within the intact group, greater wariness was associated with greater involvement in parental conflict at Year 1. These findings indicate a different pattern of long-term outcomes from those reported by Amato & Booth (1997) and Wallerstein, Blakeslee and Lewis (2000).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-74
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Divorce and Remarriage
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • Adult adjustment
  • Adult relationships
  • Children of divorce
  • Family conflict
  • Parent marriage quality

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Parental marital quality and family conflict: Longitudinal effects on adolescents from divorcing and non-divorcing families'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this