The influence of interparental conflict and cooperation on children’s social competence: differential susceptibility according to temperament
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- Institutt for psykologi 
Interparental conflict is common in most families, and some forms of conflict may have negative consequences for children. Research has shown that, overall, interparental conflict may predict comparatively reduced social competence in children, but we know little about the potential impact of different forms of conflict on children’s social competence. Moreover, children may also reap developmentally from having parents who solve their conflicts in constructive manners. Possibly, children may also be differentially vulnerable to the negative and positive effects of parental conflict. The current study therefore tested whether children’s emotion regulation capability moderated the impact of parental conflict on their development of social competence. In all, 698 children and their primary caretaker residing in Trondheim, Norway, participated. One parent reported on their own and partner’s conflict solving styles, and their child’s social competence and emotion regulation. Interparental stonewalling (i.e. passive-aggressiveness) predicted comparative reduction in children’s assertiveness from 6 to 8 years. Parental cooperation, on the other hand, predicted increased offspring cooperation, self-control and assertiveness. Important, beyond these main effects, emotion regulation seemed to function as a differential susceptibility factor moderating otherwise non-significant main effects: Children with comparatively low levels of emotion regulation fared the worse when parents had large amounts of verbal aggression whereas they seemed to profit the most, competence wise, when parents evidences a cooperative conflict solution style. Children with high levels of emotion regulation skills, however, were to a greater extent unaffected by parents’ conflict. Interventions to improve the way parents handle conflict may benefit otherwise vulnerable children, i.e. those with poor emotion regulation skills, the most.