Husbands and fathers, take note: Marital conflict puts strain on bond with your children

Kouros, SMU, marital conflict, Time, psychology

News magazine Time covered the research of psychology expert Chrystyna Kouros, assistant professor in the SMU Department of Psychology.

Kouros focuses on understanding depressive symptoms and depression in the context of family stress.

One line of her research focuses on the etiology, maintenance and progression of child and adolescent depression, and how symptoms change over time. She has a particular interest in the effects of children’s exposure to everyday marital conflict and parental psychopathology.

Time reporter Belinda Luscombe highlighted Kouros’ most recent research which found that the repercussion of a marital dispute can be a damaged relationship between parents and their children. Her article “When Couples Fight, It Affects Fathers More” published Aug. 6.

Read the full story.

EXCERPT:

By Belinda Luscombe
Time

Men, it is frequently said, are very good at compartmentalizing—usually when they’ve done something wrong. But new research suggests women can compartmentalize too, especially around family.

A study published in the Journal of Family Psychology looked at the effect marital squabbling had on parents’ relationships with kids. The researchers found, not surprisingly, that when a couple fights, that spills over to the relationship each parent has with his or her offspring. But, interestingly, this effect does not last very long for moms.

By the next day, most mother-child relationships were back on an even keel, while the fathers still reported things were tense. “In fact, in that situation, moms appeared to compensate for their marital tension,” said the study’s lead author, assistant psychology professor at Southern Methodist University Chrystyna D. Kouros. “Poor marital quality actually predicted an improvement in the relationship between the mom and the child.”

Are the moms compensating for their lousy relationship with dad by looking for human bonds elsewhere? Are they making a pre-emptive strike, even subconsciously, in case there’s a custody battle? Do they not care so much about fights with their spouses? Or do they just need someone to talk to? Kouros says it’s not clear why the women are more able to isolate the relationship with their kids from the tension they feel toward their spouse, but there are several theories.

Read the full story.

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