Children and Marital Aggression

Principal Investigators: Mark Cummings, Ph.D. and Mona El-Sheikh, Alumni Professor at Auburn University

Co-Investigators: Chrystyna Kouros, Ph.D. and Peggy Keller, Ph.D.

Exposure to marital psychological and physical abuse has been established as a risk factor for children’s socio-emotional, behavioral, and cognitive problems. Understanding the processes by which children develop symptoms of psychopathology and deficits in regulatory processes and cognitive functioning in the context of marital aggression is imperative for developing efficient and effective treatment programs for children and families, and has far-reaching mental health implications.

This five-year project, funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development focuses on children’s emotional and physiological reactivity and regulation as pathways in the marital aggression-child development link. Findings from this research program highlight the importance of children’s regulatory processes for understanding children’s adjustment over time in family contexts, especially relations between marital aggression, parental hostility and child adjustment.

Selected Publications

Erath, S. A., El-Sheikh, M., & Cummings, E. M. (in press). Harsh parenting and child externalizing behavior: Skin conductance reactivity as a moderator. Child Development

Cummings, E.M., El-Sheikh, M., Kouros, C. D., & Buckhalt, J.A. (2009). Children and violence: The role of children’s regulation in the marital aggression-child adjustment link. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 12, 3-15.

El-Sheikh, M., Kouros, C. D., Erath, S., Cummings, E. M., Keller, P. S., & Elmore-Staton, L. (2009). Marital conflict and children’s externalizing behavior: Interactions between parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system activity. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 74, 1-101.

El-Sheikh, M., Cummings, E. M., Kouros, C. D., Elmore-Staton, L., & Buckhalt, J. A. (2008). Marital psychological and physical aggression and children’s mental and physical health: Direct, mediated, and moderated effects. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 76, 138-148.

This project is not recruiting new participants.

For additional information, please contact Mark Cummings at

Children/Marital Aggression