Parental Conflict

Outcomes and Interventions for Children and Families

Jenny Reynolds, Catherine Houlston, Lester Coleman, and Gordon Harold

Parental Conflict

Jenny Reynolds, Catherine Houlston, Lester Coleman, and Gordon Harold

Distributed for Bristol University Press

288 pages | 6 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2014
Paper $30.95 ISBN: 9781447315810 Published April 2014 For sale in North and South America only
Researchers increasingly recognize the importance of early family experiences on children and the impact that inter-parental conflict has on child development. This book reviews recent research in order to show how children who experience high levels of inter-parental conflict are put at both an immediate psychological and physical risk and a longer-developing risk of recapitulating such behaviors. The authors examine topics such as the differences between destructive and constructive inter-parental conflict on child development, why some children are more adversely affected than others, and how conflict affects child physiology. Ultimately they provide suggestions for improving the futures of children who are experiencing challenging family environments today. 



1. Conflict in context

Changing family life

Introducing inter-parental conflict

Introducing child impacts

Introducing why outcomes from inter-parental conflicts differ for children

2. Understanding different types of conflict

What type of conflict matters?

Differentiating destructive and constructive conflict

What about domestic violence?

Constructive conflict

3. The impact of inter-parental conflict on children

Emotional regulation: externalising and internalising conflicts

Family and social relationships

Poor health


Academic performance

4. How does inter-parental conflict affect children?

Inter-parental conflict and troubled family relationships

Implications for children’s emotional security and attachment

Processes that explain the negative impact of couple conflict on parenting

Emotional, cognitive and behavioural responses to conflict: the child’s perspective

Inter-parental conflict and children’s early brain development

Sensitisation: don’t children get used to fighting parents?

5. Risk and resilience: why are some children affected more than others?

Child characteristics

Family characteristics

Extra-familial characteristics

6. Review of conflict-based interventions for couples

What should conflict interventions focus on?

Are there effective conflict interventions?

Focus on parenting: parent education programmes

Parenting intervention programmes that take account of the couple relationship

Programmes that focus on at-risk groups and challenging transitions

Interventions that focus specifically on conflicts

Couples who have separated/divorced

Couples who are still together

Early intervention: relationship preparation or enhancement courses

What does the current evidence tell us?

7. Implications for practice: how to help families

When should we intervene?

Early intervention is important, but how early is early enough?

Who should interventions focus on?

What are some common components of couple interventions?

Moderating factors
Innovative ideas for conflict intervention


8. Conclusions and recommendations

Headline findings

How practitioners can help families in conflict

Gatekeepers to conflict interventions and further support

Promoting an early intervention approach and raising awareness

Help parents develop skills to avoid destructive conflict and to promote constructive conflict

Inform programme developers in how to customize conflict interventions

Follow-up support for parents

Focusing on children

Encouraging help seeking

How policy makers can help

The role of further research



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