Marital Conflict Project
Numerous reports have shown that couples that engage in high levels of couple conflict exhibit disrupted parenting styles. These parents have been found to be less emotionally available and more withdrawn, but also more harsh and intrusive. Using a randomized controlled experiment, we aimed to examine potential mechanisms linking marital conflict and parenting behavior. Particularly, we examined reactivity and recovery of the autonomic nervous system and hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis surrounding a marital interaction and a mother-child interaction. As part of the study, participants engaged in either a positive marital discussion or a conflict discussion. Mothers then played with their child before and after the child underwent a challenge task designed to elicit negative emotions (fear and frustration). Stress physiology was collected throughout the visit on the mother, father, and child.