Sociology, Department of


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Published in Social Forces, Volume 86, Number 3, March 2008, pp. 1139-1161. Copyright © The University of North Carolina Press.


We used adopted and biological children from Waves 1 and 2 of the National Survey of Families and Households to study the links between parents’ marital conflict, divorce and children’s behavior problems. The standard family environment model assumes that marital conflict and divorce increase the risk of children’s behavior problems. The passive genetic model assumes that parents’ and children’s behavior are linked because of genetic transmission from parents to children. The child effects model assumes that parents’ marital distress is the result of (rather than the cause of) children’s behavior. Our analysis shows that the associations between parents’ divorce and marital conflict and children’s behavior problems are comparable for biological and adopted children. Moreover, the primary direction of influence appears to run from parents to children. Taken together, these results provide support for the standard family environment model.

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