Marital quality and child functioning: a longitudinal investigation

Child Dev. 1989 Oct;60(5):1044-51. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.1989.tb03535.x.


We examined the impact of parental marital quality, both before marriage and after the birth of a child, on child attachment and related constructs. 39 parents (20 families) with children between the ages of 1-3 years completed measures of marital satisfaction, conflict, and communication at 2 time periods (premarriage and postbirth, 3-5 years later). Parents also completed Q-sort descriptions of their child at postbirth, yielding scores for security of attachment, sociability, and dependency. Results indicated that both premarital and postbirth indices of the parent's marital relationship were related to child functioning. For mothers, high satisfaction, low conflict, and high communication quality (rated by fathers) were related to child security of attachment and dependency. For fathers, higher levels of premarital conflict and lower levels of communication quality were positively related to dependency. These findings indicate that the quality of the parents' relationship before marriage as well as after the child is born is related to child functioning.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child, Preschool
  • Communication
  • Dependency, Psychological
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Marriage*
  • Object Attachment*
  • Psychology, Child*
  • Social Behavior