Times have changed a lot over the last few decades. The world our parents grew up in, is tremendously different from that in which we now live, and it is very likely that the same will be said for coming generations. One large change is the way families are now viewed. A family of married parents with children was very much the only way to go, back in the 1960’s, and through the 80’s, though there is far less emphasis on the importance thereof in todays society, and its prevalence has decreased (Hetherington, Bridges, Insabella, 1998).
Research from Klein and Schulman (1980) sought to examine the link to behaviour in children based on maritial adjustment. Adjustment here was defined as mutual consensus, satisfaction, cohesion and effectional expression, as measured using the Dyadic Adjustment Scale (Spanier, 1976, as cited by Klein and Schulman, 1980). The measured the relation between Adjustment, gender roles and child behaviour.
Questionaires were also used to measure behaviour, using a Childrens Behaviour Questionaire (Gordin, 1976, as cited by Klein and Schulman, 1980) containing a 32 item scale measuring behaviour at school, home or in social situations. Gender roles were assessed using the Typology of Self Descriptions (Stein & Neulinger, 1968, as cited by Klein and Schulman, 1980), using an excercise asking subjects to prioritise 20 different needs, the answers from which were analysed by several psychologists categorise each parent as to whether they were ‘instrumental’ or ‘expressive’, instrumental considered to be the traditional male role, and expressive that of the female.
And the results showed that children of parents with good maritial adjustment had lower mean behavioural problems than those of poor adjustment. Results also showed that when mother and father assumed their traditional roles in parenting (father primarily to provide, mother primarily to nurture) that behavioural problems were lower compared with the reverse of this.
So, is this reliable and is this valid? The results were found significant. Yet are there possibilities of bias, due to parents wanting to be seen to conform to the accepted way? Did parents want to show their children in the best light? Or their marriage too? Were their perceptions of their roles based on their aspirations or their actual behaviour?
We are informed that these methods are correct, that the Childrens Behaviour Questionaire has a split half reliability of 0.82, and that the internal consistency reliability of the Dyadic Adjusment Scale is 0.92 (Klein & Schulman, 1980), but I would like to answer this quesion by looking at reliability of measures over time, since with the change in views and attitudes, such bias is less likely to impact data.
Research throughout the time this data was recorded up to the present day support that conflict free marrage and positive behaviour are related. A 2005 longitudinal study, examining the relationship between marital conflict and child behaviour problems used teacher assessments of childrens externalising and internalising behaviour, and parents reporting conflict using various self report quesionaires. As with the previous study, the reported internal consistency of the different measurement tools was quite high (ranging from .66 – .87).
And the results supported the 1980 research, that partner conflict increases child behaviour problems. The results shows that partner conflict at time 1 in the study predicted behavioural problems at time 2 (Jenkins, Simpson, Dunn, Rasbash & O’Connor, 2005).
The general consensus of research carried out surrounding this question also speaks in favour of the married family, even though over recent decades, views have largely changed, suggesting that there is indeed reliability in the research undertaken by Klein and Schulman (1980). This is only a brief examination of such research, however others have reported similar trends (e.g. Najman et al, 1997).
Hetherington, E. M., Bridges, M. & Insabella, G. M. 1998. What Matters? What does not? Five Perspectives on the Association Between Marital Transitions and Children’s Adjustment. American Psychologist, 53, 167-184.
Klein, M. M. and Schulman, S. 1980. Behaviour Problems of Children in Relation to Parental Instrumentality-Expressivity and Marital Adjustment. Psychological Reports, 47, 11-14.
Najman, J. M., Behrens, B. C., Andersen, M., Bor, W., O’Callaghan, M. & Williams, G. M. 1997. Impact of Family Type and Family Quality on Child Behavior Problems: A Longitudinal Study. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 36, 1357-1365.
Jenkins, J., Simpson, A., Dunn, J., Rasbash, J. & O’Connor, T. G. 2005. Mutual Influence of Marital Conflict and Childrens Behaviour Problems: Shared and Nonshared Family Risks. Child Development, 76, 24-39, doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2005.00827.x