The impact of marital discord and parenting practices on adolescent adjustment in intact and step families

Kao, Meei-ying
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The present study investigated the effect of marital discord and parenting practices on child's psychological distress in two different types of families, intact and stepfather families, by using data from a nationally representative sample. The families with a focal child aged between 5 and 18 were selected from the data as sample. By using Structural Equation Modeling with test for statistical significance, the findings revealed that the marital discord of both biological parents directly affects child's psychological well-being regardless the gender of child. For step family, only biological mother but not step father has direct effect on child's psychological distress. This direct effect from parents' marital discord remains for intact family when parenting practices are included in the models. Only biological mother's report of marital disagreement and step father's parenting have direct effects and step father's report of marital disagreement has indirect effect on girl's psychological distress for step family. In order to detect the differences across gender and family structure groups, model comparisons are employed in the study. The result indicates that there is no significant gender effect found on this study, and the differences between intact and step families are not statistically significant. Finally, the limitation of the sample is discussed. The longitudinal designed data for investigating causal effects is suggested for further studies.