Associations Between Marital Conflict and Adolescent Conflict Appraisals, Stress Physiology, and Mental Health

Rachel G. Lucas-Thompson, Erika S. Lunkenheimer, Adina Dumitrache

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


The goal of the current study was to examine conflict appraisals and diurnal cortisol production as mediators of the robust association between marital conflict and adolescent adjustment problems. Parents reported their marital conflict and were observed engaging in a marital conflict discussion; they also reported adolescent internalizing and externalizing behaviors. Adolescents (n = 105, 52% female, 10–17 years of age) appraised their parents’ marital conflict and reported their internalizing and externalizing behaviors. After the laboratory visit, adolescents provided four saliva samples on each of 2 consecutive days to assess diurnal cortisol production. More-negative marital conflict predicted more self-blame for parental conflict, which in turn predicted less robust decreases in cortisol across the day. Further, this flattened cortisol production pattern mediated the relationship between greater self-blame for parental conflict and adolescents’ elevated internalizing behaviors. Feeling responsible for parental conflict appears to be particularly damaging in terms of physiological regulation and adjustment, and may therefore be a particularly useful intervention target.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)379-393
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 4 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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