Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2012

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

O'Hara, Michael W

First Committee Member

Lawrence, Erika

Second Committee Member

Markon, Kristian E

Third Committee Member

Kochanska, Grazyna

Fourth Committee Member

Stuart, Scott


Interparental conflict has been shown to be associated with child psychopathology (internalizing and externalizing behaviors). Adolescents are at risk for developing internalizing and externalizing behaviors because they are aware of the implications of the interparental conflict, they can attempt to mediate the conflict, and because of age-related responsibilities, they often experience new and unfamiliar stressors. A comprehensive review of the literature revealed four mediational models with substantial empirical support that explain the relation between interparental conflict and adolescent psychopathology: the cognitive-contextual model, the triangulation model, the spillover model, and the interparental conflict-parental psychopathology model. Typically, the mediators of these models (self-blame/perceived threat; triangulation; negative parenting behaviors; parental psychopathology, respectively) have been examined individually. The aim of this study was threefold: 1) examine the specificity of adolescent psychopathology (dimension versus diagnosis), 2) test each theoretical model, and 3) develop and test an integrative model that included the mediational mechanisms from the individual models. A community sample of 152 families (mother, father, adolescent) was recruited from the contiguous United States. Considering specific psychiatric diagnoses did not improve the fit of models that included the respective adolescent dimensional internalizing or externalizing behaviors. The hypotheses of the cognitive-contextual model (mediator: perceived threat), spillover model (mediators: maternal/paternal parenting), and the interparental conflict-parental psychopathology model (mediators: maternal/paternal internalizing) were supported in this study, but mediation was not supported for the triangulation model. Considering the mediators together, adolescent perceived threat, negative parenting, maternal internalizing and paternal externalizing behaviors were key in predicting adolescent psychopathology. Overall, the findings from the integrative models suggest that externalizing behaviors (interparental conflict, negative parenting, paternal externalizing behavior) lead to both adolescent internalizing and externalizing behaviors; whereas, parental internalizing behaviors leads to internalizing behaviors only. The implications of these findings, especially from the integrative model, have clinical implications and provide guidance for future research.


adolescent psychopathology, cognitive-contexual framework, mother and father psychopathology, spillover hypothesis, triangulation model


ix, 170 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 161-170).


Copyright 2012 Sheehan David Fisher

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Psychology Commons