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Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)



First Advisor

Esther Cohen

First Committee Member

Kenneth Beauchamp

Second Committee Member

Martin T. Gipson


Research has indicated a relationship between overt marital conflict and childhood behavior problems (Porter & O'Leary, 1980). Overt marital conflict has been correlated with behavior disorders in boys, particularly conduct disorders. A similar relationship has not been found for girls, although findings have suggested that both boys and girls are equally accurate in their perceptions of parental conflict (Emery & O'Leary, 1982). Another potentially damaging but uninvestigated form of marital discord is covert conflict. ~he present study assessed whether children could discriminate between overt conflict, covert conflict, and problem solving styles of parental interaction. Age and sex differences were also assessed. Participants viewed videotapes depicting the three styles of parental interaction then responded to a questionnaire assessing the perception of parental conflict and its effects on children. Children consistently perceived greater conflict in the overt interaction than in the covert interaction, and greater conflict in both the overt and covert interactions than in the problem-solving interaction. Children also predicted that the overt and covert interactions would have similar negative effects for the child, while they viewed the child in the problem-solving interaction as being relatively unaffected. Sex differences were not obtained. This study indicates that children view covert conflict as harmful, and that they prefer a problem-solving style of interaction and perceive such a style as having less negative impact on the marital relationship and the child.



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