In this chapter, I examine how marital conflict, divorce, and remarriage affect parenting, parent-child and sibling relationships, and the adjustment of children as they move from early to mid-adolescence.
The association between marital and family discord, marital transitions and child adjustment is well established. Children and adolescents living in contentious homes or divorced or remarried families in comparison; with those in harmonious nondivorced families are higher in externalizing behavior problems (antisocial behavior, aggression, noncompliance) and internalizing behavior problems (inhibited, withdrawn behavior, anxiety, depression) and lower in social responsibility, self-esteem, and social and cognitive competence (see Amato, 2001; Amato & Keith, 1991a; Cummings, Goeke-Morey, & Rapp, 2001; Hetherington, Bridges, & Insabella, 1998; Hetherington & Stanley-Hagan, 2000; 2002; McLanahan, 1999, for reviews).
Although conduct disorders decline in young adulthood, substance abuse, alcoholism and troubles with the law remain higher in youths from conflicted, divorced and remarried families. Youths who have experienced their parent's marital transitions also are more likely to be single parents, to experience lower socioeconomic and educational attainment and to be on welfare. In addition, they have more problems with family members, in intimate relations, in marriage and in the workplace. Their divorce rate is higher and their reports of general well-being and life satisfaction are lower (Amato, 1999; 2001; see Chapter 8, in this book); Amato & Booth, 1996; Amato & Keith, 1991b; Hetherington, 1999a; 2003; Hetherington & Kelly, 2002).