Psychology, Department of


First Advisor

Heidi M. Inderbitzen-Nolan

Date of this Version



Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Department of Psychology, 1999. Advisor: Heidi M. Inderbitzen-Nolan.


Copyright 1999, the author. Used by permission.

UMI number 9942140.


The relationship between interparentaI conflict and overt aggression has been a consistent finding for males, but not for females. As a result. females have been thought to be less affected by parental disputes. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether parental conflict could predict aggression in males and females if aggression is operationalized to include both the overt type that is common among males and the relational type that is more common in females. Participants were 102 fifth- (37 males; 65 females). 137 eighth- (54 males; 83 females). and 110 eleventh-graders (37 males; 73 females) and their parents. Each participant (youth and parent) rated their perceptions of interparental conflict, overt aggression. and relational aggression. As predicted, parental arguments were associated with relational aggression for girls and both relational and overt aggression for boys. Type of youth aggression was predicted by the type of conflict witnessed at home between parents. That is, youth overt aggression was predicted by parental overt aggression while youth relational aggression was predicted by parents' use of relational aggression. Overt and relational aggression were both. predicted by the properties of the conflict (frequency, intensity, degree of resolution, and content) witnessed. Finally. youth cognitive appraisals of their parents' disputes predicted use of relational and overt aggression. Conflicts that were perceived as threatening predicted overt aggression, while blaming oneself for parental arguments predicted relational aggression. Findings are interpreted within the cognitive-contextual framework and other models that include both direct and indirect mechanisms to account for the relationship between interparental conflict and aggression. Implications for the assessment of relational aggression are also discussed.