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Interparental Conflict & Children’s Internalizing Psychopathology: Examining the Role of Children’s Appraisals & Emotions Jennifer K. Hauser & John H. Grych Marquette University. INTRODUCTION. RESULTS: Correlations of Criterion & Dependent Variables. GOALS OF THE CURRENT PROJECT.

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Interparental Conflict & Children’s Internalizing Psychopathology: Examining the Role of Children’s Appraisals & EmotionsJennifer K. Hauser & John H. GrychMarquette University

INTRODUCTION

RESULTS: Correlations of Criterion & Dependent Variables

GOALS OF THE CURRENT PROJECT

  • Cognitive-Contextual Framework(Grych & Fincham, 1990)
  • Children’s appraisals mediate the relationship between interparental conflict and child adjustment
  • Two-stage Appraisal Process
    • Initial Processing: awareness of stressor & affective reaction
    • Secondary Processing: more elaborate; attempt to understand why the conflict has occurred & how the child should respond

Children’s Emotions (Stein & Levine, 1987; Stein & Trabasso, 1992)

  • Organize and guide actions
  • When children perceive that their goals are threatened, the nature of the emotional reaction depends on the child’s estimate of how likely it is that a goal can be restored or maintained if threatened.
  • Thus, a child experiences different emotions depending upon if:
    • They think the goal can be reinstated
    • They think it unlikely that that the goal can be reinstated
    • The outcome is uncertain

Specific Emotions Model

(Crockenberg & Forgays, 1996; Crockenberg & Langrock, 2001)

  • Highlights importance of children’s emotional reactions to interparental conflict for understanding how exposure to conflict influences children’s responses & adjustment.
  • The parental conflict functions as information that children can use to construct the meaning of the conflict.
  • Appraisals: (evaluating the status of personally significant goals) determine whether and which emotion the child will experience.
  • Emotions: guide the type of behavior the child will engage in.
  • Integration of the Cognitive-Contextual Framework & the Specific Emotions Model
  • Incorporation of Childhood Internalizing Literature into this Model

Interparental Conflict

Child Adjustment

Appraisals

Worry

Threat

Anxiety

IPC

Blame

Sad

Depression

APPRAISAL

EMOTION

ADJUSTMENT

METHODS

Note: * p<.05, ** p<.01

Participants

  • N=137 fourth & fifth grade children
  • Mean age= 10.7
  • 52.2% Male, 47.8% Female
  • Ethnic Background
    • 57.4% Caucasian
    • 25% African-American
    • 6.6% Hispanic
    • .7% Asian
    • 8.1% Biracial
    • 2.2% Other

Hierarchical Regression Analyses

DISCUSSION

Appraisals

  • Threat
    • Mediator of relationship between Interparental Conflict & Anxiety
    • As predicted, not significantly related to Sadness or Depression
  • Blame
    • Mediator of both Interparental Conflict - Depression relationship & Interparental Conflict - Anxiety relationship

Emotions

  • Worry appears to be specific to Anxiety, whereas Sadness seems to be specific to Depression.
  • Sadness
    • Contrary to predictions, Sadness was not a mediator of the association between Blame and Depression
  • Worry
    • Mediates relationship between Threat and Anxiety
    • Also, partially mediates relationship between Blame and Anxiety

Predictor Variables: Anxiety

Step 1:

β for Interparental Conflict .24*

R2 .04

Step 2:

β for Interparental Conflict .01

β for Threat .21*

β for Blame .32**

R2 .16

Step 3:

β for Interparental Conflict .07

β for Threat .03

β for Blame .21*

β for Worry .35**

β for Sad .15

R2 .32

THE PRESENT STUDY

MEASURES

  • Integration of the Cognitive-Contextual Framework & the Specific Emotions Model
  • This model seeks to evaluate both appraisals and emotions in the presence of interparental conflict
  • It will also seek to incorporate the relationships between specific appraisals & emotions and the type of psychopathology to which they are related.

Internalizing Psychopathology

  • Anxiety & depression differ with regard to diagnosis, course, and appropriate treatment.
  • Current measures of childhood anxiety & depression are highly correlated.

Tripartite Model of Emotions(Clark & Watson, 1991)

  • Two-factor structure of Affect
  • Symptoms of anxiety & depression can be divided into 3 classes:
    • Those specific to anxiety
    • Those exclusive to depression
    • Those that are common to both disorders
  • Current self-report measures of anxiety & depression tend to tap into negative affect (NA)
  • Positive & Negative Affect Scale for Children
  • (PANAS-C; Laurent et al., 1999)
  • New measure created to distinguish anxious from depressed individuals– adapted from the adult version of the PANAS.
  • Based on the Tripartite Model of Emotions
  • Consists of Negative Affect (NA) items & Positive Affect (PA) items
  • Basic Premise: While both anxious & depressed children will score high on negative affect, depressed children will score significantly low on the positive affect items.

Level of Interparental Conflict

  • Children’s Perceptions of Interparental Conflict Scale (CPIC; Grych, Seid, & Fincham, 1992): Conflict Properties Scale
    • Assesses frequency, intensity, & resolution of parental conflict

Appraisals

  • CPIC Threat Scale
    • Assesses the level of threat felt by the child when their parents have an argument
  • CPIC Blame Scale
    • Assesses the degree to which the child has the tendency to blame themselves for the conflict

Emotions: Worry & Sadness

  • Problem Solving Task (PST)
    • Children are instructed to identify ‘how much’ they felt each emotion during the previous discussion.
    • Sad & Worried were among other emotions that children were asked to rate

Child Internalizing Psychopathology

  • Positive and Negative Affect Scale for Children (PANAS-C): Used to distinguish anxious from depressed children
      • 12 Positive Affect Items (interested, excited, happy)
      • 15 Negative Affect Items (sad, ashamed, upset)

Predictor Variables: Depression

Step 1:

β for Interparental Conflict .27*

R2 .06

Step 2:

β for Interparental Conflict .12

β for Threat .03

β for Blame .39**

R2 .18

Step 3:

β for Interparental Conflict .13

β for Threat -.06

β for Blame .37**

β for Worry .04

β for Sad .30*

R2 .26

  • Limitations & Directions for Future Research
  • Cross-sectional data: Since cross-sectional data were used in this project, no conclusions about time-ordered sequencing can be made. Longitudinal data are needed to explore predictive relationships among these variables.
  • Utilization of PANAS-C: (1) used alternate scoring, (2) does not assess comorbid anxiety & depression, and (3) does not assess physiological hyperarousal (thought to be a significant component of anxiety).
  • Measurement of Emotion: Emotions demonstrated may be modulated versions of initial emotional responses (product of emotion regulation). Hence, it is difficult to assess a “pure emotion;” emotion regulation literature explores this issue conceptually & methodologically (Cole et al., 2004; Campos et al., 2004).
  • Contributions of the Current Project
  • Integration of the Cognitive-Contextual Framework & the Specific Emotions Model
  • Increased Specificity
  • Incorporation of Child Anxiety & Depression Literature into Interparental Conflict Domain

.35*

.42**

Anxiety

Worry

Threat

.18*

Conflict Properties

.21*

.30*

Blame

Sad

Depression

This work was supported by Grant NIMH# MH60294-01.

.37**