Consistent with the bidirectional perspective on parent-child relations, the current study examined children's perceptions of agency in the context of marital conflict. A storytelling task was completed by 115 five-year-old children, tapping perceived agency. These children and their mothers and fathers completed measures of marital conflict at two time points. Consistent with clinical theory and research (e.g., Emery, 1989, 1999) and with theory about negative emotionality as related to children's motivation for agency (e.g., Davies & Cummings, 1994), destructive marital conflict predicted more negative child emotional reactivity, which predicted greater child perceived agency. By contrast, children's perceived agency at Time 1 was negatively related to marital conflict at Time 2. The results supported the hypothesis that children's perceived agency about marital conflict relates to reduced marital conflict over time, controlling for initial level of marital conflict. Implications for dynamic conceptualizations of children's agency from a family-wide perspective are discussed.


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pp. 121-144
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