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The research of SMU psychologists Renee McDonald, Ernest Jouriles and David Rosenfield was featured in an article on the web site GoodTherapy.org.
McDonald, lead author on the research and a professor of psychology, researches specific child adjustment problems, such as aggression and antisocial behavior, and how they are associated with exposure to family conflict and violence. She has begun to develop and evaluate intervention programs to assist children exposed to frequent and severe interparent violence.
McDonald and Jouriles are co-founders and co-directors of SMU’s Family Research Center. The Center advances knowledge about family functioning and malfunctioning, trains students in clinical psychology and treats families who participate in programs at the research center.
Over 15 million children live in homes in which intimate partner violence (IPV) occurs.
“A sizable proportion of these children experience significant mental-health problems, but many appear to experience only mild distress, especially those drawn from community samples,” said Renee McDonald of the Department of Psychology at Southern Methodist University. “Parent– child communications about interparent conflict may represent another important dimension of parenting for children who have been exposed to IPV.”
Children who witness interparent conflict often express curiosity about the conflict. A number of mothers have reported that if asked, they would explain to their children about the conflict. However, to date, few studies have looked at that behavior to identify the influence it would have on the child’s adjustment.
“It seems plausible that mother–child communications about interparent conflict affect children’s understanding of the conflict, and theorists often point to the importance of children’s understanding of their parents’ conflict in influencing children’s adjustment,” said McDonald.
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