What is it about?

This study addresses the relationship between different dimensions of interparental conflict (intensity, frequency, stability, resolution, etc) and adolescents' emotional security in the family. According to the Emotional Security Theory (EST), children and adolescents need to feel secure in their families, and this may apply to adolescents who, for various reasons, are in institutional care. When adolescents feel secure in their families, they are happy/proud of their family and feel that they can count on then. When adolescents feel insecure in their families, they worry or disengage from their family. Adolescents in institutional care see or visit their families even when they live in institutions and most of them return to their families when they reach 18 years old. So, measuring their emotional security in the family and identifying those dimensions that may relate to their emotional security or insecurity seems important for researchers and practitioners. In this study, most participants, n = 746 (81.4%), lived with their families (subsample F), while 171 adolescents (18.6%) were in residential care (subsample RC). Multigroup structural equation showed that conflict properties (conflict intensity, frequency, etc) were negatively related to security while threat was positively related to preoccupation (worrying about the family) and disengagement (pretending that they do not care about their families). This model applied to adolescents in residential care and living with their families and for males and females.

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Why is it important?

This study has implications for researchers and practitioners. For researchers, it opens the scope of research on interparental conflict and emotional security to a sample of adolescents in residential care, and shows the shared causal relationships between interparental conflict dimensions and emotional security dimensions for adolescents from different living arrangements and for males and females. For practitioners, they may consider using the evaluation of interparental conflict and emotional security in the family to improve decision-making for adolescents in residential care and to measure risk and protective factors when deeming family reunification or regular family contact for residential care adolescents.


I hope that this article will have an impact in practitioners who want to go beyond evaluating attachment and to researchers. Emotional security has been mostly studied in community samples and this work contributes to opening the Emotional Security construct and theory to study adolescents in residential care.

Dr. Silvia López-Larrosa
Universidade da Coruna

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Exploring the relationship between interparental conflict and emotional security: What happens with adolescents in residential care compared to those living with their families?, Children and Youth Services Review, June 2019, Elsevier, DOI: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2019.03.054.
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