Cross-Over Effects in the Emotional Adjustment of Children

Impacts of Couple Relation, Family Instability and Income

Research Paper (undergraduate), 2013

26 Pages, Grade: B



In recent times, most social psychology research literature has focused on the significance of couple relation, family instability and income on a child’s emotional well- being. Numerous studies have come with an assumption that children raised in a conflict, dysfunctional and diverse family contexts show inconsistent forms of results that transverse various developmental domains. Similar evidence of family studies suggested that different family factors such as parents respond to child’s distress, family emotional environment, family income and inter- maternal effectiveness explained children’s emotion socialization (Morris, Silk, Steinberg, Myers, & Robinson, 2007; Thompson& Meyer, 2007).

Theory and research also come out with a convincing evidence to suggest that scholars have moved from the universal concept of spousal change to particular characteristics of family functioning that is associated with child outcomes, precisely, the parents' open crisis and the manifestation of physical violence (Jouriles, Murphy, Farris, & Smith, 1991), This incidence is frequently connected to youngsters' violent and emotive difficulties in life.

Also, research findings documented that most initiated strategy and policies targeted toward supporting strong matrimonies amongst people living in a poor household (Administration for Children and Families 2006) has come out with many suggestions and multidisciplinary interest to support the likely defensive function of family cohesiveness and the probable evolving dangers of precariousness. However, studies are suggestive of a link between low-income families, insecurity and stress and how this interaction disturbs the stability and expectedness of care that promote quality of life for youngsters (Beck et al. 2010; Gibson-Davis and Gassman-Pines 2010; Tach et al. 2010).

Interestingly, reports from the reviewing literature advocated that recent advancement in physiological process has come to a new perception that explain youngster’s feelings and their regulatory instruments. To buttress this opinion, studies such as cardiac vagaltone (e.g., Beauchaine, 2001), event -related talents (e.g., Lewis, Granic, & Lamm, 2006), and hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal functioning (e.g.,Blair, Granger, & Razza, 2005) documented the significance of biological approaches to children’s emotional self-adjustment. Though, this assumption sound convincing, nevertheless, it significantly influences people’s view on children experience, countenance and how they manage their emotions in an interpersonal environment.

Furthermore evidence shows that the assertion is linked to a body of literature that recognizes the significant application of holistic approach to family system and a broad shared network to kid growth (Cox & Paley, 1997; Lynch & Cicchetti, 1998; Sameroff & MacKenzie, 2003) . Nonetheless, general beliefs that family is the unique and the most important interpersonal environment that forms children’s emotion regulation continue to generate more support in social psychology research.

Reviewing studies highlight how exposure to family instability, family income and marital discord impacts affectional issues in childhood (e.g., Buehler et al., 1997; Davies, Harold, Goeke-Morey, & Cummings, 2002; Harold, Fincham, Osborne, & Conger, 1997). Thus, various approaches which recognized association are generally documented as a primary or secondary process in family relations.

Besides conjugal conflict directly influence children emotional changes and inculcating in them the following factors: a faulty operating perspective of useful orientation and feelings to cope over societal issues (Fincham, Grych, & Osborne, 1994), thought-provoking skill to control emotive situations (Katz & Gottman, 1991), unsettling child’s emotive safety (Davies et al., 2002), last but not the least, determine children’s understandings and handling of their environment situation (Kerig, 2001). Thus, as a major issue of social psychology, most reviewed literature highlight that marital discord impact negatively on children’s adjustment parenthetically by influencing child-rearing conduct which support child’s socoicognitive skill (Buehler & Gerard, 2002; Osborne & Fincham, 1996).

Additionally , most reported evidence on family relation documented how the economic situation in the family impacts negatively on family functioning and the child’s well being (Conger & Elder, 1994; Conger, Rueter, & Conger, 2000; McLoyd, 1998). Recent findings reported that poverty is significantly linked with other variables that interconnected in the family such as quality of life, conjugal contentment, parental feeling and efficient, violence, and physical and mental disorders.

For instance, a documented result of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD; Mistry, Biesanz, Taylor, Burchinal, & Cox, 2004) recommended that connection between income, family and child health is higher in low family income group and reduces when family earnings surpasses the poverty level. Therefore, this finding suggests a correlation between lower parental sensitivity and unsuccessful maternal control in families with low-income compare to those above the poverty level (Mistry, Lowe, Renner, & Chien, 2008).

In a similar manner, documented studies on family stress models (Elder, Eccles, art, & Lord, 1995) reported that the economic situation of the family has significant implication on the child’s emotional adjustment. This assumption is supported with evidence that financial distress will definitely create a marital discomfort, relational withdrawal, less adjusted parenting, and worse child outcomes in the family (Donnellan, Conger, McAdams, & Neppl, 2009; Kiser, 2007; Riley et al., 2009; Schoon, Jones, Cheng, & Maughan, 2011; Seccombe, 2002). Research also documented that economic pressure is significantly related to family instability, conjugal conflict and regret in a household (Conger, Rueter, & Elder, 1999; Dew & Yorgason, 2010; Karney & Bradbury, 2005). It's also worth mentioning that the reviewed literature on family stress models reported the influence of financial stress on individual level variables such as misery and maternal feeling (Barnett, 2008; Kiser, 2007; Riley et al., 2009), and on conjugal level variables such as conjugal distress and spousal support (Conger et al., 1999; Dew & Yorgason, 2010; Karney & Bradbury, 2005), however most of this evidence shows less documentation on the association between observed family functioning and income.

Purpose of the Paper

This study will focus on how children’s emotional reactivity and adjustment is significantly linked with marital relation, income and family instability. The study will assess and analyze the relative cross over effects of the interaction, i.e. Couple relation, family instability and income on a child’s emotional and behavioral functioning. The paper will address why marital quality is evenly conceived as relationship contentment and functioning. Though this attitude created fresh result outcomes, however, it was evident that the simple, unidimensional emphasis on couple contentment failed to find a particular measurements of conjugal value that associated with child engagemet. Though, studies show how couple relation, family instability and income are linked with undesirable child behavior; yet, it is ambiguous to deduce exactly what makes the interactions among these factors are caustic to children's metal health.


The main objective of this essay is to explore various literatures on family relationships and looks at evidence that support the associations between couple relation, family instability and income environment and how the crossover effects of the interaction influence child’s emotional adjustment.

Therefore, the research paper aims at the following specific goals:

To analyze how children’s emotional reactivity and the adjustment is significantly linked with marital relation, income and family instability.

To critically investigate the crossover effects of these factors on the child’s adjustment and emotional

To review the literature on marital quality and how this relates to child functioning

To analyze the relationship between family relation and child adjustment at multiple level using ecological perspective and family stress model

Chapter Two

Theoretical framework

An ecological perspective to couple relation and child’s emotional adjustment

Evidence from the reviewing literature shows that Bronfenbrenner, 1979 and Lynch and Cicchetti, 1998, came out with various models for explaining the child’s ontogenic level of engagement as entrenched in various levels of experience. According to ecological theory of development, child’s activities are embedded in the microsystem, i.e. the family setting, and pattern of interaction between members of the family. Besides most family systems models documented that rooted in the microsystem includes various subsystems, e.g., conjugal and caregiver- child relationship, and that the interaction within the subsystems is based on the transactional method (Belsky, 1981; Nichols & Schwartz, 2004. The exosystem level explains how the environs influence or is influenced by what occurs within the family and life of the children.

Moreover, evidence shows that all these variables are embedded in the macrosystem. This represents the largest system of culture which transmits information, customs, and orientation that explained peoples behavior, ethnic, cultural, or traditional identity (Cox & Paley, 1997) However, the principles as well as customs which originated from the macrosystem stage of involvement are articulated in the way people relate or engage with each other in the family. Therefore, studies on transactional grounded models of development, basically define the different systems that formed the nested phases of children’s experiences. This model further justifies the assumption that couple power dynamics in a marital setting are significantly connected to the way family engage with each other at the microsystem level and child’s emotional regulation at the mesosystem level in a multicultural situation, considering the macrosystemic factors.

Conceptual Model

The paper employs the idea of FSM initiated by Conger and Elder (1994) that elucidate the significant effects of marital relation , household instability and income on child adjustment. The FSM proposes that everything being equal poor financial situation of the family will lead to breaking down of couple relationship and this will eventually cause a threat that brings conjugal unsteadiness. Though most literature on FSM shows that the idea is more or less concentrated on the financial situations of the family, nevertheless, various analyses of the concept show that it covers other areas like partial learning or work-related issues and success. For instance, learning success is a significant key to future economic accomplishment throughout the lifespan (Krieger et al., 1997) in addition a robust constructive relationship exists between work-related status and financial gain (Treiman, 1976).

However, the idea predicts a significant correlation between high financial stress and danger of emotive suffering in a couple relationship (e.g., misery, worry, resentment, and separation) and for behavioral difficulties (e.g., drug abuse and disruptive conduct) (Conger et al., 2002). Consequently, results from the reviewing literature documented that ideas concerning financial stress as a predictor of marital instability stems from Berkowitz’s (1989) work that redefine frustration–violence theory.

Berkowitz documented how nerve-wracking, annoying, cruel, or agonizing measures and situations are legally linked to augmented affecting stimulation and disturbs people in sequences i.e. sadness to annoy in human and other animal species. According to FSM, financial stress is a concept that reveals the types of agony or annoying experiences conceived by Berkowitz as upsurge affectional suffering and behavioral dilemmas in people. Thus the theory established that infuriated reactions to financial stress brings about marital skirmish and despair. This action probable causes frequent removal of caring behaviors and decreases in pleasant interactions in a household.

As mentioned earlier in this paper, most evidence of marital relationship suggested that financial difficulty in a household brings poor relationship value and steadiness. Similarly, most of the research work on this topic during the last ten years has come out with many positive results that are reliable with the concept. To support this assertion, Conger et al. (2002) conducted an empirical research on black American couples living in both rural and urban area and reported that financial difficulty lead to economic stress and these features indirectly aggravated emotional stress for both couples and child living in a household. As projected in numerous studies, affectional problems augmented skirmish in these affairs. Similar studies conducted by (Solantaus, Leinonen, & Punamäki, 2004) and (Parke et al., 2004), documented the same results by envisaging a link between poverty, stress, misery and conflict.

To buttress the assertion, evidence from reviewing literature on diverse groups of people continually documented a significant association between family financial difficulty and conjugal functioning and how the crossover effects of this condition influence child’s adjustment . Moreover, the results show that aspect of the anxiety technique includes the notion of financial burden or worry that is not just perceives as a biased impression but highlight the aversive activities that happen when people are experiencing economic pressure. Therefore the FSM theory further highlighted how parent’s financial distress forecast a negative link between couple relationship, child-rearing practices like strict, detached and unpredictable parenting practices in a household (Conger & Conger, 2002; Conger et al., 2002).

Interestingly, studies also documented the likelihood of skirmish and isolation in the family as something not just applicable for natural parents but also for stepparents, single couples living together as spouses, and other parenting interactions like daughters and mothers nurturing youngster together (Conger et al., 2002). Besides, studies on FSM suggested a direct relationship correlation between interparental skirmish, relationship problems and difficulties in child rearing. The main assumption according to this model emphasized on how disrupted nurturing describe the effect of parental agony and interparental disaster on child growth, as well as the decrements in skilled operative (e.g., reasoning talent, interpersonal skill, learning achievement, and affection to parents) and upsurges covert behavior (e.g., misery signs and nervousness) and last but not the least, on overt behavior (e.g., ferocious and rebellious behavior) problems.

Literature Review

Numerous research literature on children have long come out with a suggestion that psychological and economic explained the significant influence of relationship stability for children's well being. Family stability encourages stability in Caregiving and increases financial and emotional support accessible to mothers and motivate responsive parenting. The report suggested that stability in a household serves as a channel through which further support their children. (Gibson-Davis and Gassman-Pines 2010; Tach et al. 2010). Similarly research also indicated that a sensitive and reliable parenting in the early stage of life supports youngsters’full engagement of the contextual setting and constructive social interactions with grown person and peers (Sroufe 2000; Waters and Cummings 2000), backup youngsters’ emotive and developmental growth. Marital precariousness, conversely, disturbs household interactions and add to difficult roles amongst youngsters (Hetherington et al. 1998; Teachman 2003).

Without a doubt, research has established that family breakdown are traumatic for family members and that interruptions in early infant continually growth in teenage years (Cavanagh and Huston 2008) and middle age (Hill et al. 2001; Hetherington and Kelly 2003). Moreover marital steadily increases the financial incomes accessible for offspring, while entering and leavings of spouses in the family promote little or irregular amounts of incomes, regulating kids’ contact to stimulating resources and communications (Manning and Brown 2006).

Review of literature documented consistent correlational associations between exposure to conjugal skirmish, poverty and conduct disorder in children, yet the exact processes accountable for these links continue to be uncertain (Davies & Cummings, 1994;) . Similar evidence from literature maintained the fact that undesirable broad conjugal fulfillment is significantly correlated with harmful child consequences, in specific, a child's behavioral difficulties (e.g. Emery & O'Leary, 1982;; Jouriles, Bourg, & Farris, 1991; Kazdin, 1987; Reid & Crisafulli, 1990). Moeover, reports from recent hypothetical and experimental analysis about the processes emphasised that relationship conflict and instabilbity in a household among caregivers is expressively disequilibrating for youngsters development (Crockenberg & Forgays, 1996; Crockenberg & Langrock, 2001; Davies & Cummings, 1994; Davies & Forman, 2002) Therefore, thorough observation of youngster’s instant affecting and developmental responses to interparental skirmish further highlight the need for critical assessment about the association between income, couples’relationship,instability and child adjustment ( Davies & Cummings, 1994)

Earlier studies confirmed high augmented attention in the ideas of family systems model to experimental research change in youth (Davies & Cicchetti, 2004;). Thus, family systems theory observes communications between relations and persons in the entire household entity, and emphases precisely on conducting and interaction forms that control association arrangements and relational limits (Cox & Paley, 1997; Davies & Cicchetti, 2004).

Despite series of current studies highlighting the significance of perceiving household developments over time (e.g., Patterson and Reid, 1984) comparatively limited scholars have come out and ascertain youngsters’conduct in the course of household interactions. Therefore, research evidence that sees the conjugal value as a significant prognosticator of childhood disorder has long reported (e.g., Hubbard & Adams, 1936;). Although development that followed this assertion recognized the fact that marital skirmish predicted child difficulties than various other features of matrimonial value (e.g., fulfillment, suffering). This prediction merely reiterating the fact that relations concerning marital skirmish and child modification have gotten into a situation of diminishing returns (Grych & Fincham, 2001). In reacting to this effect, research work is currently following a second phase of process oriented study on marital skirmish (Fincham, 1994). The main focus of this innovative study is to positively define the procedures and circumstances that are accountable for the relationship concerning marital problems and children's emotional functioning.

Structural and systemic theories predict that when family subsystem functioning is disrupted, risk for maladjustment increases ( Cox & Paley, 1997). However research shows that empirical work is beginning to show support for this theoretical argument, that conduct disorder is more noticeable in youngsters when limits are desecrated (e.g., Buchanan, Maccobby, & Dornbusch, 1991; Kerig, 1995), a finding that has been replicated cross-culturally ( Lindahl & Malik, 1999). What is not yet well understood, however, are the pathways that connect problems in family functioning and income to externalizing or internalizing problems in children.

Cross Over Effects of Couples Relation on Child Adjustment

One of the particular issues that required urgent attention among scholars on marital dynamics is how influence and the regulator are spread in interactions. Numerous scholars have come out with a position that established the significance of authority in couple relations, and conjugal dyad to be precise (; Gottman & Notarius, 2002; Huston, 1983; Olson & Cromwell, 1975). Moreover, evidence from the reviewed studies highlighted the fact that appreciating relationship arrangement, as well as the regularity or irregularity of power, choice, and authority in a couple and household relationships, offer better intuition into a pattern of interaction, steadiness, and value of the family

It's worth mentioning that most of the work on WFC have ignored the significance of environmental approach. Evidence shows that they focus more on a person with less consideration given to the interaction that happen in a household context (Russell, Regan, Linda, & Janet, 2006). Similarly, studies mostly overlooked the situation in which persons’ feelings and conducts are influenced variably or invariably by the multifaceted shared interactions they involve in the systems (Hammer, Colton, Caubet, & Brockwood, 2002). Consequently, reports show that spreading the component of investigation from people to couples while reviewing backgrounds and results linked to WFC might offer a further appreciative of the work–family interface. This discussion is specifically suitable for new married people nurturing minor children in a household (see Frone’s 2003 review) and couple reliance on one another in their shared duty of child nurturing.

Therefore , crossover is referred to as the dyadic, interindividual diffusion of anxiety or worry (Westman, 2001). The development happens once a member of a household is going through stress or psychological distress and his/her situation directly or indirectly disturbs or contribute to the degree of pressure or tension in another individual sharing similar social setting. This occurs because of the spill over of the empathic reaction in one of the individual that upsurges the other person level of anxiety (Westman & Etzion, 2005). Though quite a lot of studies on the marital relation confirmed this development, Westman, Vinokur, Hamilton, and Roziner (2004) establish spillover of spousal displeasure from Russian soldiers to their partners.

Similarly, a study conducted by Westman and Etzion (1995) confirmed spillover of stress that professional transfer to their wives. Research documented that crossover impacts of WFC as a foundation of strain in a household recorded less interest. Additionally, Westman and Etzion (2005) showed a spillover of WFC between womenfolk working with the U.S. air forces and their husbands. A similar study conducted by Swanson and Power’s (1999) pointed out occupation or career functions as a cause of skirmish among partners. Their report findings show that the subjects stated their spouse’s career hindered their relationship.

The family emotional climate.

Evidence from reviewing literatures established that the occurrence and amount of constructive and undesirable emotion in a household, and value of family interactions as a whole add to the emotional environment of a household. This research established that household forms of communication of hopeful and destructive affect are believed to exemplary “feeling guidelines” that add to the socialization of emotional state (, Thompson & Meyer, 2007). Moreover, a warmth, cohesive and positive household interactions and environment serves as a foundation for a child to engage and understand their emotive know-hows; while, unfriendly, life-threatening, and undesirable household relations can dishearten youngsters from asking for support regarding their affects desires (Fosco & Grych, 2007; Thompson & Meyer, 2007).

Therefore, reviewed literature reliably associated positivity in a household to the youngsters’ feeling parameter (Eisenberg et al., 2005; Halberstadt & Eaton, 2002), nonetheless, reports show how household unconstructiveness and strain weaken child’s feeling command quite a lot of support among researchers (e.g., Eisenberg et al., 2001), even if unpredictable (Halberstadt & Eaton, 2002). Traditionally, the dimension of the poignant environment depend on parent’s explanation of a household or experiential dyadic relations of caregiver and youngster. According to research studies this situation captured just a part of the family environment, therefore , numerous viewpoints on the family dynamic or perceiving household interactions is required if a precise explanation of the emotional environment is to be recorded. (Thompson & Meyer, 2007).

Interparental conflict.


Excerpt out of 26 pages


Cross-Over Effects in the Emotional Adjustment of Children
Impacts of Couple Relation, Family Instability and Income
( Atlantic International University )  (Social Sciences)
Social Psychology
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ISBN (eBook)
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cross-over, effects, emotional, adjustment, children, impacts, couple, relation, family, instability, income
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Olusegun Emmanuel Afolabi (Author), 2013, Cross-Over Effects in the Emotional Adjustment of Children, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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