Out of balance? Positivity–negativity ratios in couples’ interaction impact child adjustment.

Parental conflict is a well-established predictor of child maladjustment. Most research, however, has not considered how the couple’s positivity–negativity interaction ratio (i.e., the ability to compensate for negative behaviors with positive) may be linked with child adjustment. We examined interparental positivity–negativity interaction ratios reported by one partner as a predictor of child self-reported internalizing and externalizing problems using 3 waves of survey data gathered from 809 families across 5 years in the German Family Panel (pairfam) study. Latent class analysis revealed 4 distinct classes of parental positivity–negativity ratios evident at all 3 waves: (a) very high positivity–very low negativity, (b) high positivity–moderate negativity, (c) moderate positivity–low negativity, and (d) low positivity–very high negativity. Latent growth curve analyses revealed that children from parents in the low positivity–very high negativity ratio reported higher scores of internalizing problems across all waves compared with children from the other groups. This finding indicates that the impact of negative couple interactions on child internalizing problems is counterbalanced by the amount of positivity also present in parental relations. The study suggests consideration of positive and negative aspects of parental relations simultaneously is warranted in clinical practice or when studying the impact of parental couple dynamics on child development. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)