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Inter-parental conflict and children's externalising problems during the transition from primary to secondary school

Walters, Sasha Louise 2010. Inter-parental conflict and children's externalising problems during the transition from primary to secondary school. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.

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Background: The prevalence rates of aggressive and antisocial behaviour among children and adolescents are a cause for concern among parents, teachers and policy makers. The aetiology of these dimensions of child psychopathology remains high on the research agenda. Attention has been directed at specific family relations, including inter-parental and parent-child relationships, and school-based factors, such as student-teacher relationships and school transitions, as aspects of children's social environment that may contribute to externalising problems. This thesis explores the role of home-school interplay by examining the pathways through which pre- and post-transition inter-parental conflict is associated with children and adolescents' externalising problems in secondary school. Method The thesis employs a mixed methods design. Multivariate analysis using both cross-sectional and prospective, longitudinal research designs are used to assess relationships between inter-parental conflict and children's externalising problems during the transition from primary to secondary school. This is supplemented by a thematic analysis of qualitative responses identifying the school-based factors that children, their parents and teachers have identified as helpful and unhelpful to foster adaptation to school transition. Results Findings emphasise the importance of family relations for children's school- based adjustment. Inter-parental conflict preceding and co-occurring with the school transition consistently predicted externalising problems in secondary school via children's responsibility attributions for the conflict. The results also underscore the value of considering the interface between home and school for understanding variation in children's psychological adjustment by showing that inter-parental conflict increases children's transition-related anxiety, which predicts poor adjustment to secondary school. Supportive teacher behaviour appears to be a significant factor that helps children prepare for the transition. It appears to be particularly important for children experiencing heightened levels of discord and hostility within the home, who may be among those at greater risk of manifesting externalising problems. Conclusions It is important to consider aspects of the home and school environment to understand variation in children's externalising problems in school during periods of transition. Results are discussed and recommendations made for policy and practice aimed at reducing aggression and antisocial behaviour during this critical period of normative life stress.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
ISBN: 9781303195976
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 19 Mar 2016 23:29

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