Children & Teens

Could parents’ relationship quality affect interactions with their child?

A recent study examined the effects of spousal relationship quality on the amount and frequency of parent-child communication.

The interactions between the psychological wellbeing of parents and their children are often investigated by researchers. Family psychologists often attempt to determine how different factors in one or both parents, influence their relationship to their child, and whether that relationship has any effects on child development.

In a recent study, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, researchers investigated whether the couple’s relationship has any effect on the parent-child communication frequency. The researchers recruited 93 heterosexual couples from the United Kingdom. To increase the simplicity and consistency of the study, all parents were first-time parents to 7-months-old boys and girls. The participants’ interactions were measured by a small recorder that was worn by the infants.

After analyzing the interactions and controlling for depression, the researchers observed a particular pattern. In mothers who reported their spousal relationship to be unsatisfactory, interactions with their child were 35% longer and 20% more frequent. However, this effect was only observed if the child was a boy. No such effect was observed in fathers, regardless of gender or relationship quality.

The researchers did not analyze the content of these conversations, so more general conclusions regarding the meaning of these results are difficult to make. Nevertheless, the researchers suggest that it may mean the mothers attempt to compensate for the poor relationship with their husbands. If that is the case, it would be particularly interesting to consider their findings being gender-related. The researchers suggest that a daughter could be viewed as too similar to the mother herself, while a son reminds them more of their husband.

Written by Maor Bernshtein

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