Interparental Conflict, Attention to Angry Interpersonal Interactions, and Adolescent Anxiety

Rachel G. Lucas-Thompson, Natasha S. Seiter, Erika S. Lunkenheimer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objective: The goal of this study was to provide the first empirical investigation of associations among interparental conflict, adolescents' attention to emotion in interpersonal interactions, and adolescents' anxiety. Background: Previous research suggests that both interparental conflict and attention biases have implications for youth anxiety. Method: Adolescents (n = 60, aged 10–19 years) viewed neutral versus emotional (angry, happy) photo pairs of interpersonal interactions while gaze was measured using an eye-tracking camera. Adolescents also reported their anxiety symptoms. Parents' self-reported characteristics of their conflict were observed during an interparental conflict discussion. Results: Parents who displayed less positive conflict behavior had adolescents who spent more time attending to angry interpersonal interactions; more negative conflict behavior by parents predicted less time attending to happy interpersonal interactions by adolescents. Interparental conflict interacted with attention to angry interpersonal interactions in relation to adolescent anxiety: More negative marital conflict was related to increased anxiety symptoms only when adolescents also displayed an attention bias toward angry interactions. Conclusion: Interparental conflict and attention to angry interpersonal interactions may be risk factors for adolescent anxiety and interact in predicting anxiety. Implications: Efforts aimed at improving the mental health of youth from poor-quality family environments may benefit from considering strategies to modify attention to angry interpersonal interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1041-1054
Number of pages14
JournalFamily Relations
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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