The interparental relationship: Meta-analytic associations with children's maladjustment and responses to interparental conflict

Willemijn M van Eldik, Amaranta D de Haan, Lucia Q Parry, Patrick T Davies, Maartje P C M Luijk, Lidia R Arends, Peter Prinzie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

122 Citations (Scopus)
113 Downloads (Pure)


The aim of the current meta-analysis was to aggregate concurrent and longitudinal empirical research on associations between the interparental relationship and both children's maladjustment (i.e., externalizing and internalizing symptoms) and children's responses to interparental conflict (i.e., emotional, behavioral, cognitive, and physiological). Based on major theoretical frameworks, we distinguished between six dimensions of the interparental relationship: relationship quality, conflict frequency, hostile, disengaged, and unconstructive forms of conflict, and child-related conflict. A final selection of 169 studies for child maladjustment and 61 studies for child responses to conflict were included. The findings revealed by the expansive and fine-grained approach of this meta-analysis support and challenge theoretical hypotheses about the relative predictive value of dimensions of the interparental relationship for children's functioning. Although hostility was specifically more strongly associated with children's externalizing behavior and emotional responses to conflict, disengaged and unconstructive conflict behavior posed similar risks for the other domains of child functioning. In addition, relationship quality, conflict frequency, and child-related conflict warrant more attention in theoretical frameworks, as these dimensions posed similar risks to child functioning as the different forms of conflict. Moreover, most associations between the interparental relationship and child functioning endured over time. Also, developmental and gender differences appeared to depend on the specific forms of interparental conflict and the domain of child functioning. In sum, the results support the growing consensus that prevention and intervention programs aimed at children's mental health could benefit from an alternative or additional focus on the interparental relationship. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)553-594
Number of pages42
JournalPsychological Bulletin
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Research programs



Dive into the research topics of 'The interparental relationship: Meta-analytic associations with children's maladjustment and responses to interparental conflict'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this