Marital behavior, parenting behavior, and multiple reports of preschoolers' behavior problems: mediation or moderation?

Dev Psychol. 2001 Jul;37(4):502-19.


Associations among positive and conflictual marital behavior and multiple reports of child behavior problems were examined in a community sample of 78 families with 3-year-old children. Maternal and paternal parenting behaviors were tested as potential mediators and moderators. Parents reported on child behavior problems and were observed during parent-child interaction and couple discussion in the presence of the child. Observers and preschool teachers also reported on child behavior problems. Less positive marital engagement and greater conflict were associated with observers' reports, but not with parents' or teachers' reports, of more behavior problems. Associations between marital behavior and child behavior problems were not explained by maternal or paternal behavior; stronger support was found for moderating effects of parenting. Also, positive marital engagement was a slightly better predictor of child behavior problems than was marital conflict.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child Behavior Disorders / diagnosis
  • Child Behavior Disorders / psychology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marriage / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Parenting*
  • Problem Solving
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Surveys and Questionnaires