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Dev Psychopathol. 2004 Summer;16(3):525-50.

Pathways between profiles of family functioning, child security in the interparental subsystem, and child psychological problems.

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  • 1Department of Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY 14627, USA.


This study was designed to delineate pathways between systems profiles of family functioning, children's emotional insecurity in the interparental relationship, and their psychological adjustment in a sample of 221 children and their parents. Consistent with family systems theory, cluster analyses conducted with assessments of marital, coparental, and parent-child functioning indicated that families fit into one of four profiles: (a) cohesive families, characterized by warmth, affection, and flexible well-defined boundaries in family relationships; (b) disengaged families, reflected in high levels of adversity and low levels of support across family subsystems; (c) enmeshed families, evidenced by high levels of discord and weak maintenance of relationship boundaries in the family unit; and (d) adequate families, defined by elevated parental psychological control within a larger family context of low discord and high warmth. In comparison to children in cohesive families, children in enmeshed and disengaged families exhibited greater signs of insecurity in the interparental relationship concurrently and internalizing and externalizing symptoms both concurrently and 1 year later. Structural equation models revealed that a latent, multimethod measure of insecurity in the interparental relationship partially mediated associations between family enmeshment and disengagement and children's psychological symptoms 1 year later. Results are discussed in relation to how they inform and refine a family-wide model of the emotional security hypothesis.

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