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Parental Conflict and Marital Disruption: Do Children Benefit When High-Conflict Marriages Are Dissolved?

Donna Ruane Morrison and Mary Jo Coiro
Journal of Marriage and Family
Vol. 61, No. 3 (Aug., 1999), pp. 626-637
DOI: 10.2307/353565
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/353565
Page Count: 12
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Parental Conflict and Marital Disruption: Do Children Benefit When High-Conflict Marriages Are Dissolved?
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Abstract

A million children experience divorce each year, and some policymakers argue for policies that would make it more difficult for parents to divorce. However, being exposed to a high degree of marital conflict has been shown to place children at risk for a variety of problems. Using mother-child data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) and a prospective design, this research explores two questions: Do the effects of marital disruption on child well-being vary for children whose parents leave high-conflict marriages versus low-conflict marriages? How do children fare when their high-conflict parents remain together? We find that separation and divorce are associated with increases in behavior problems in children, regardless of the level of conflict between parents. However, in marriages that do not break up, high levels of marital conflict are associated with even greater increases in children's behavior problems.

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