Parental Conflicts and Posttraumatic Stress of Children in High-Conflict Divorce Families

Aurelie M.C. Lange*, Margreet M. Visser, Ron H.J. Scholte, Catrin Finkenauer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Parental conflicts consistently predict negative outcomes for children. Research suggests that children from high-conflict divorces (HCD) may also experience post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS), yet little is known about the association between parental conflicts in HCD families and child PTSS. We investigated this association, hypothesizing that parental conflicts would predict child PTSS. We also tested the moderating role of interparental contact frequency, hypothesizing that frequent contact would intensify the association between parental conflicts and child PTSS. This study was part of an observational study on the outcomes of No Kids in the Middle (NKM), a multi-family group intervention for HCD families. A total of 107 children from 68 families participated in the study with at least one parent. We used pre- (T1) and post-intervention (T2) data. Research questions were addressed cross-sectionally, using regression analyses to predict PTSS at T1, and longitudinally, using a correlated change (T1 to T2) model. The cross-sectional findings suggested that mother- and child-reported conflicts, but not father-reported conflicts, were related to the severity of child PTSS. Longitudinally, we found that change in father-reported conflicts, but not change in child- or mother-reported conflicts, were related to change in child PTSS. The estimated associations for the different informants were not significantly different from one another. The frequency of contact between ex-partners did not moderate the relationship between parental conflicts and child PTSS. We conclude that there is a positive association between parental conflicts and child PTSS in HCD families independent of who reports on the conflicts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)615-625
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Child and Adolescent Trauma
Volume15
Issue number3
Early online date27 Oct 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022

Keywords

  • High-conflict divorce
  • Interparental contact
  • Intervention
  • Parental conflict
  • Post-traumatic stress

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