This study draws on the family systems concepts of triangulation and
wholism to investigate how interparental conflict may affect
adolescents' psychological adjustment. An ethnically and
socioeconomically diverse sample (N = 388) of 14- to
18-year-olds completed measures of interparental conflict, family
relationships, internalizing problems, and externalizing problems. We
found that triangulation into parental disagreements mediated the
association between parental conflict and both internalizing and
externalizing problems. Adolescents exposed to more frequent, intense,
and poorly resolved conflict were more likely to feel triangulated, but
this association was moderated by the nature of the alliances they had
with their parents. Specifically, at low levels of interparental
conflict, adolescents who had substantially stronger alliances with one
parent than the other reported greater triangulation than those with
more balanced alliances. At high levels of conflict, these groups
reported similar degrees of triangulation. We also found that
supportive parent–child relationships reduced adolescents'
appraisals of threat and self-blame for interparental conflict, while
more empathic relationships with siblings increased these appraisals.
Finally, close relationships with fathers acted as a protective factor
that reduced symptoms of maladjustment.