The Role of Parents’ Relationship Quality in Children’s Behavior Problems

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16 Scopus citations


Objectives: Using longitudinal data from the Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Study (N = 507), we considered the role of parents’ earlier (child age 5) relationship quality, co-parenting quality, and father involvement in children’s later (age 9) internalizing and externalizing behaviors, with a specific focus on mediational links. We also explored the possibility of different patterns of associations based on child gender. Method: A demographically diverse sample of women who were in stable relationships (married or cohabiting) with the focal child’s biological father completed questionnaires assessing the primary study variables at child ages 5 and 9 years. Results: Correlational analyses supported many of the hypothesized links between relationship quality, co-parenting quality, father involvement, and children’s behaviors problems, although more so for boys. Regression analyses further illuminated the associations among the study variables. Importantly, co-parenting quality served as a mediator in the link between relationship quality and boys’ age 9 internalizing and externalizing behaviors. Conclusions: This study identified different patterns for boys and girls, with relationship quality, co-parenting quality, and father involvement being important for boys but only co-parenting quality being important for girls. Further, findings suggest that for boys, the quality of the mother’s romantic relationship has a bearing on the quality of her co-parenting with the father, which in turn impacts the son’s behavioral adjustment. Future studies are needed to understand the nature of the longitudinal associations among the study variables more fully.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2199-2208
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 5 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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