Journal of Medical Sciences 2004; 24(4): 185-190.

Children's Behavioral Problems, Inter-Parental Conflict, and Maternal Psychological Distress

Szu-Hsien Lee1*, Lee-Lan Yen2, and Li-Ting Chen3

1 Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, National Defense Medical Center,
2 Institute of Health Policy and Management, College of Public Health, National Taiwan University,
3 Department of Psychology, National Taiwan University,Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China

Background: Previous studies conducted to demonstrate the association between children's behavioral problems, inter-parental conflict, and maternal psychological distress have reported mixed findings. This paper examines the relationships between these three factors. Methods: School children were interviewed to complete a questionnaire regarding inter-parental conflict and their own behavioral problems, and their parents were requested to fill out the Chinese Health Questionnaire at home. A total of 2,218 first graders and 2,075 fourth graders completed the study. Results: Higher inter-parental conflict was significantly associated with more externalizing and internalizing behavioral problems for children in both grades. It also showed that fourth-grade girls were more likely than fourth-grade boys to have internalizing problems, but that boys as a whole were more likely than girls to have externalizing behavioral problems. Maternal psychological distress was not significantly predictive of children's behavioral problems. Conclusions: Compared to maternal psychological distress, gender and exposure to inter-parental conflict appears to have a greater influence on children's behavioral problems.

Key words: behavioral problems, child, inter-parental conflict, psychological distress

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