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Throughout the years, concerns over the impact of interparental relationship on children has been discussed. Many studies have been conducted providing evidence of adverse impacts of inter-parental relationship on children. Evidence has progressed from earlier research and it has been highlighted that tension between parents can potentially have negative effect on children’s mental health and development (Towle, 1931). Multiple studies have demonstrated that inter-parental conflicts have more important effects on the children’s adjustment than the divorce itself (Tschann, Flores, Pasch & Martin, 1999; Morrison & Coiro, 1999; Forehand, Neighbors, Devine & Armistead, 1994). In fact, using longitudinal study, Amato et al. found out that children belonging to families with high inter-parental conflict performed better if their parents were divorced than if they stayed together (Amato, Loomis, & Booth, 1995). Their results indicated that if couples with high marital conflict don’t divorce, their unsolved conflict can negatively impact well-being of their children (Amato, Loomis, & Booth, 1995). Thus, it is evident that inter-parental conflicts may have a much more devastating effect on children than the marital status of their parents itself.
According to Davies and Cummings, inter-parental relationship affects the children’s adjustment directly through the emotional stress level and academic performance (Cummings & Davies, 2014). Adamson and Thomson also concluded that children who witness inter-parental conflicts suffer from increasing stress levels that negatively affects their academic achievement (Adamson & Thomson, 2008). According to Hurlock, children who witnessed inter-parental conflict, their stress levels heightened which kept them from focusing on schoolwork (Hurlock, 2011). Apart from heightened stress levels, previous research has also highlighted that inter-parental conflict can indirectly impact children through spillover effect. Spillover effect is defined by previous research as transfer of emotion from inter-parental to parent-child relationship which can be underlying causing agent for changes in witnessing child’s emotional, behavioral and developmental factors (Harold, Aitken, & Shelton, 2007).
Harold et al. conducted study in 2007, highlighting that inter-parental relationship plays crucial role on child’s academic performance (Harold, Aitken, & Shelton, 2007). Their findings suggested that children belonging to families with high inter-parental conflict, were at greater risks for lower academic achievement than children belonging to positive family environment (Harold, Aitken, & Shelton, 2007). In 2010, Ghazarian and Buehler examined the association between inter-parental conflict and children’s academic achievement. They found out that students with higher levels of hostile, intense, and unresolved inter-parental conflict achieved lower grades compared to their peers with no inter-parental conflict (Ghazarian & Buehler, 2010).
Existing literature on inter-parental relationship revealed that most research has been conducted on children of divorced parents and its impact on children’s mental, health, social and emotional problems rather than academic difficulties. Additionally, as previously discussed, inter-parental conflicts may have a much more devastating effect on children than divorce of their parents. Thus, the current study extends previous research by examining the impact of inter-parental conflict on children’s academic performance when they witness such conflict.
The objective of present study is to examine the impact of child’s exposure of inter-parental conflict on child’s academic performance. We hypothesized that inter-parental relationship is correlated with child’s academic performance; children with no exposure to inter-parental conflict perform better academically than their peers who are exposed to inter-parental conflict. The independent variable in my study is exposure to inter-parental conflict, and the dependent variable is child’s academic performance. Independent variable in this study is operationally defined by assessing child’s exposure to inter-parental conflict using a self-report measure, O’Leary–Porter scale (OPS). Dependent variable is operationally defined by assessing child’s academic performance using their scores in Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) tests.
The sample consisted of 79 school aged students from grades three, six and nine attending Rickson Ridge Public School and Centennial Collegiate Vocational Institute in Guelph. Participants were between ages of eight years and 12 years. The sample included 35 third graders, 23 sixth graders and 21 ninth graders. Both primary and secondary schools were contacted to participate in this research study to help parents understand the link between family structure and children’s academic performance. We recruited participants by sending invitation letter and consent form to participate in this study through email. Parents who were interested to participate were asked to submit their approval through email. Only two-parent families were considered, and potential participants were excluded from the study if they were divorced or separated. $10 compensation was made to each participating family as incentive and both participating schools were given booklets with key research findings to distribute to all students.
This study used OPS and EQAO test scores to measure variables. OPS is parent’s self-report indictor of their marital conflict and it measures children’s exposure to inter-parental conflict (Harold, Aitken, & Shelton, 2007). It is 20 item questionnaire that consists of questions about how often various forms of marital hostility are displayed in front of child with responses of never to very often on nine-points scale (Porter & O’Leary, 1980). The examples of various forms of martial hostility that were considered in this questionnaire include, quarrels, sarcasm, physical abuse, aggression. The reliability and validity of this measure have been established though many studies with high internal consistency, good test-retest reliability and concurrent validity (Porter & O’Leary, 1980; (Harold, Aitken, & Shelton, 2007; Gao, Silva, Cummings & Davies, 2019; Xuan et al., 2018). Questions asked were similar to “my spouse and I display aggression while arguing even when my children are present? Every day, multiple times per week, multiple times per month, once a month, once in few months, less than once a month, once in a year, once in few years, never?
The next study material that will be used is EQAO tests. EQAO tests is a standardized test that assesses cumulative knowledge and skills of students in reading, writing and math component at important stages of their school years (grades three, six and nine) in Ontario. Scores with higher percentages indicated higher academic achievement. Item Response Theory (IRT) is used by EQAO for scoring. On the basis of student’s answers to questions on EQAO tests with different levels of difficulty and number of unanswered questions, ITR estimates the number answers that students would have provided accurately if they had attempted all questions (Sun & Li, 2011).
The present study is a nonexperimental, correlational design. The explanatory variable in this study is child’s exposure to inter-parental conflict and the criterion variable is child’s academic achievement.
Primary and secondary schools were asked to participate in present study. Following their agreement, Parents of students in grade three, six and nine received invitation letter to participate along with their children in research study focusing on link between family structure and children’s development but were not told its true purpose. Potential participants who were interested received second letter with informed consent and OPS questionnaire. The letter with informed consent described the requirements, goals and each stage of study in detail and were told that information will remain confidential. Parents also received instructions how to complete OPS questionnaire. They were asked to complete questionnaire independently and contact email was provided for any concerns and queries related to study. Parents completed questionnaire electronically. At the end of the year, participating schools shared third, sixth and ninth grader’s EQAO test scores. At the end of the study, overall debriefing took place, where true purpose of study was discussed with parents and they were given chance to ask any questions.
We examined the relationship between inter-parental conflict and child’s academic achievement.
The present study hypothesized that the type of inter-parental relationship will have significant impact on how child performs academically. We used descriptive statistic approach to analyze the data. T-test was used to examine the correlation between inter-parental conflict and scores on EQUAO tests. T-test indicated that significant association existed between inter-parental conflict and child’s academic achievement p < 0.001. Parents who reported high levels of child’s exposure to inter-parental conflict had children with lower scores on EQUAO tests with greater mean difference of 4.73 (0.34 SD) compared to those who reported low levels of child’s exposure to inter-parental conflict with mean difference of 1.78 (0.29 SD). Overall, as hypothesized, our results indicated that children who were not exposed to inter-parental conflict performed better academically than their peers who were exposed to high levels of inter-parental conflict suggesting that there is significant correlation between child’s exposure to inter-parental conflict and child’s academic achievement.
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