Couples & Kids

Principal Investigator: Mark Cummings, Ph.D.

The Couples and Kids Project is a three-year prospective longitudinal study that investigated the ways couples handle everyday problems and how their interactions affect school-aged children. This project was funded by the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development. Data collection began in January of 1999 and ran until October 2003, and approximately 300 two-parent families (mothers, fathers, and one child) participated.

A goal of this study was to identify, define, and distinguish between constructive and destructive parental conflict behaviors. To accomplish this goal, we used innovative methodologies, including parental daily diary reports of conflict that occurred in the home, laboratory observations of interparental conflict, and analog procedures of conflict. One of the key findings from this study is that it is not whether parents fight, but how they fight that has implications for children’s development. Parents’ use of destructive conflict tactics when discussing a disagreement (e.g., verbal hostility, withdrawal) where linked with higher levels of children’s internalizing and externalizing behavior problems; whereas constructive conflict tactics (e.g., problem-solving, calm discussion, verbal and physical affection) were linked to better child outcomes.

This project is not recruiting new participants.

For additional information, please contact Mark Cummings at