Parenting: Linking Impacts of Interpartner Conflict to Preschool Children's Social Behavior

Leanne Whiteside-Mansell, Robert H. Bradley, Lorraine McKelvey, Jill J. Fussell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Family conflict is known to have detrimental impacts on the social development of young children. An important issue in counseling parents and the development of intervention for children is the extent to which other family environmental conditions are the path through which conflict impacts children's development. This study examined two maternal parenting behaviors (harsh discipline and warmth) that may alter the impact of interpartner conflict on child social development and behavior in a large (n = 440 girls, n = 451 boys) sample of ethnically diverse, low-income families of preschool children. Interpartner conflict was associated with poorer child social development and behavior problems. This study found that interpartner conflict increased harsh discipline, which resulted in poorer child social development. This study, however, found no evidence that interpartner conflict impacted child development through its impact on maternal warmth in that mothers experiencing conflict did not alter the level of warm parenting practices. These findings suggest that, when encountering families experiencing interpartner conflict, clinicians should not only direct families to interventions to lessen family conflict but also counsel them on the mechanism (harsh discipline) by which children are impacted by the conflict.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)389-400
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Pediatric Nursing
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Early childhood
  • Family conflict
  • Low-income families
  • Parenting
  • Social development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics


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