Loredana Benedetto, Massimo Ingrassia


The spillover hypothesis posits that negative emotions and behavioral patterns in marital conflicts influence parenting quality and children’s adjustment, through increasing of harsh and incoherent discipline and diminished involvement and affection. Moreover conflicts focused on childrearing issues are particularly distressing for children with often show emotional and behavioral problems.

The aim of the study was to explore gender differences in the links between marital conflicts (destructive and constructive tactics, childrearing disagreement) and parent-child relationships, in order to verify if there are different pathways for fathers and mothers in spillover effects.


Method. 110 parents (children aged 6-12 years) completed the Styles of Conflict Scale (marital conflict style), the Parent Problem Checklist (disagreements about childrearing), the Alabama Parenting Questionnaire (parenting practices), and the Parenting Stress Index.

Results. The links between conflict tactics and parenting practices change in function of parent’s gender. Mothers refer more frequent childrearing disagreements and increasing in punishment; furthermore - in line with the spillover hypothesis - attack and violence tactics are associated negatively with positive parenting (involvement and warmth). For fathers compromise, avoidance and attack correlate positively with effective parenting (more involvement, affection and consistency disciplinary).

Conclusions. A spillover effect, that is, an extension of marital tensions in the relationship with their children with reduced quality of parenting, seems to manifest only for women. These findings, if confirmed by other studies, would be relevant from an clinical point of view to understand how paternal and maternal parenting mediate the effects of the marital disharmony on children’s adjustment.


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.6092/2282-1619/2015.3.1066


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