It is common knowledge that parents’ relationships can have a huge effect on the romantic development of their children. A study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships suggests that interparental conflict can be linked to insecure attachment orientations.
Interparental conflict has been associated with adverse outcomes for children including low self-esteem, emotional insecurity, insecure attachment, depression, anxiety, and isolation. These effects don’t end in childhood; interparental conflict can affect the children throughout adolescence and into adulthood. Effects include alcohol abuse and problems in school.
Witnessing conflict between one’s parents is linked to having negative attitudes about romantic relationships and having trouble maintaining them in one’s own life. This can include trust issues, over depending on one’s own partner, and craving approval. Due to all the negative outcomes surrounding interparental conflict, this study seeks to understand its effects further.
Rami Tolmacz and his colleagues utilized 280 young adults from Israel to serve as their sample. The sample consisted mostly of undergraduate students who were recruited online. The average length of the longest romantic relationship for participants was 2.76 years and the sample was 92.6% heterosexual. Participants completed measures on demographics, perceived interparental conflict, attachment styles, sense of entitlement in romantic relationships, pathological care, and authenticity.
Results showed that interparental conflict was related to insecure attachment, sense of entitlement, and pathological concern. It was negatively associated with authenticity, which predicts relationship satisfaction. These relationships were mediated by insecure attachment styles. This means that interparental conflict likely hinders the ability to form secure romantic attachments, which leads to problems with the other variables measured.
This study took strides in better understanding interparental conflict and its effects on people’s future love lives, but it still has its limitations. Firstly, the cross-sectional design means it is difficult to determine direction of relationships. In other words, we cannot know if the attachment orientation leads to the entitlement and pathological care, or vice versa. Additionally, the sample was limited mainly to Israeli young adults who identified as heterosexual. Future research can utilize a more diverse sample.
“Overall, our findings suggest that exposure to [interparental conflict] may lead to imbalanced attitudes in romantic relationships, due in part to a propensity toward insecure attachment orientations. Children with insecure attachment who are exposed to significant levels of [interparental conflict] may be at high risk for relationship problems later in life because of difficulties being open and vulnerable, feeling that they deserve to have their needs met in realistic ways and focusing on self-care,” the researchers concluded.
The study, “Interparental conflict and relational attitudes within romantic relationships: The mediating role of attachment orientations“, was authored by Rami Tolmacz, Rachel Bachner-Melman, Lilac Lev-Ari, and Karen Almagor.