Within- and Between-Family Associations of Marital Functioning and Child Well-being

Kayla Knopp, Galena K. Rhoades, Elizabeth S. Allen, Aleja Parsons, Lane L. Ritchie, Howard J. Markman, Scott M. Stanley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study clarifies within-family and between-family links between marital functioning and child well-being. Expanding on existing prospective research, this study tests whether changes in parents' marital functioning are associated with corresponding changes in their children's well-being, independent from associations that exist when comparing different families. Participants (N = 1,033) were members of married, opposite-sex couples with children who participated in five waves of a larger study of marriage in the U.S. Army. Spouses' constructive communication, verbal conflict, and marital satisfaction each showed between-family associations with parent-reported child internalizing and externalizing problems. In contrast, within-family associations were significant only for parents' communication behaviors. That is, parents who reported lower levels of marital satisfaction also reported lower child well-being, whereas change in parents' communication was associated with change in child well-being over time. Isolating within-family effects is important for understanding marital and child functioning and for identifying potential targets for effective intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)451-461
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Marriage and Family
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017


  • behavioral health
  • child well-being
  • family processes
  • marital quality
  • methodologies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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