This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Marital Conflict, Maternal and Paternal Closeness and Monitoring, and Adolescent Internalizing Problems: A Test of Mediation and Moderation




Datubo-Brown, Christiana

Type of Degree



Human Development and Family Studies


To explore the mechanism underlying the link between marital conflict and adolescent depression and anxiety (internalizing symptoms), this study examined parenting as a mediator in the relationship between adolescent reports of marital conflict and internalizing symptoms. This study extended previous work by testing the spillover hypothesis and family systems theory specifying two dimensions of both maternal and paternal parenting as possible mediators: closeness and monitoring. Furthermore, this study examined adolescent gender as a moderator of the association between perceived marital conflict and adolescent depression and anxiety. Data for this study were collected as part of the International Study of Adolescent Development and Problem Behaviors (ISAD). The sample consisted of N = 1,080 students (n = 390 males, n = 690 females) attending a technical secondary school (mean age = 17 years) in Maribor, Slovenia. Students responded to demographic questions (age, sex, and home situation), a marital conflict measure, parenting process measures (maternal and paternal closeness and monitoring), and internalizing behaviors (depression and anxiety). As hypothesized, results indicated that both dimensions of maternal and paternal parenting were negatively associated with marital conflict. Furthermore, findings supported the hypothesis that maternal closeness mediated the effects by marital conflict on adolescent depression and that maternal monitoring mediated the effects by marital conflict on adolescent anxiety. Paternal closeness also mediated the relationship between perceived marital conflict and adolescent depression. However, when maternal and paternal measures were tested simultaneously in a model, only maternal constructs remained significant, due to redundancy and overlap. The results also indicated that although previous research argues that marital conflict has stronger effects for adolescent males, no evidence was found supporting the claim. Indeed, the results suggested that girls were more likely to report low paternal closeness, paternal monitoring, and maternal monitoring than were boys. Additionally, the evidence suggests that because maternal parenting processes in effect eclipse paternal parenting processes, paternal parenting behaviors should not be examined without controlling for maternal behaviors. Future work needs to explore these relationships using multiple sources (i.e. parents and children). Research will benefit from expanding on the current study by examining additional dimensions of parenting. Future work should also test these questions across time.