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Child Dev. 1998 Feb;69(1):124-39.

Exploring children's emotional security as a mediator of the link between marital relations and child adjustment.

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


Guided by the emotional security hypothesis, this study examined whether links between marital relations and children's adjustment were mediated by children's emotional security, as evidenced by their emotional reactivity (e.g., vigilance, distress), regulation of exposure to parent affect (avoidance, involvement), and internal representations in the context of interparental relations. Multiple methods and contexts were used to assess 6- to 9-year-olds' emotional security in response to standardized, simulated conflicts involving parents. Latent variable path analysis supported a theoretical pathway whereby marital dysfunction was linked with adjustment problems as mediated by response processes indicative of emotional insecurity in relation to parental conflicts. Emotional reactivity and internal representations were most closely linked with marital relations and child adjustment, especially with regard to internalizing symptoms. The importance of understanding children's emotional security in the context of the marital subsystem is discussed.

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