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Child Psychiatry Hum Dev. 2015 Feb;46(1):94-107. doi: 10.1007/s10578-014-0455-5.

Parent-child conflict and early childhood adjustment in two-parent low-income families: parallel developmental processes.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, 210 S. Bouquet St., 4103 SENSQ, Pittsburgh, PA, 15260, USA,


Parent-child conflict is central to most intervention models focused on reducing child problem behavior, yet few longitudinal studies have examined these processes during early childhood. The current study investigates (1) growth in mother-child and father figure (FF)-child conflict, (2) associations between trajectories of mother-child and FF-child conflict and children's adjustment; and (3) intervention effects in attenuating conflict. Participants are 195 ethnically diverse mother-FF-child triads drawn from a larger parenting intervention study for families with children at risk for developing conduct problems. Mother-child conflict decreased from ages 2 to 4, but decreases were unrelated to changes in children's adjustment problems. In contrast, the slope of FF-child conflict was positively related to the slope of child externalizing behaviors. Random assignment to a family-centered parenting intervention predicted rate of decline in mother-child conflict. Findings are discussed with respect to developmental patterns of parent-child conflict in early childhood and implications for prevention.

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