Children’s affective and arousal responses to live interparental conflict: Links with appraisals.

While previous research has consistently found that negative forms of interparental conflict predict poorer outcomes in children, less is known about children’s immediate responses to conflict. In a sample of 101 children (9–11 years of age) and their parents, we used a novel methodological approach to examine children’s affect and perceived arousal responses to a live conflict between their parents in the lab. In addition, we examined children’s self-reported cognitions regarding interparental conflict as predictors of these affect and perceived arousal responses. Children reported their affect and perceived arousal responses at 3 time points: before the live interparental conflict, immediately following the conflict, and again immediately following a positive family conversation task. Mixed effects models indicated that children’s positive affect decreased following the interparental conflict, and increased following the positive family conversation. Negative affect and perceived arousal decreased linearly across all 3 time points such that they were the lowest following the positive family conversation. Children’s perceptions of interparental conflict predicted children’s negative affect and perceived arousal scores, but not their degree of change from 1 time point to the next. Findings are discussed in terms of clinical intervention for families and directions for future research in this area. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)