Parental relationship quality and children's behavioural problems: Childcare quality as a protective factor?




Socio-emotional development, parental relationship quality, early childhood education and care, NICHD SECCYD, United States


Objective: This study investigates how changes in parental relationship quality relate to children's socio-emotional development during early childhood and whether high-quality early childcare arrangements may act as a protective factor in children’s environments.

Background: We draw on family systems theory and the bioecological model of human development to conceptualise how different social environments may interact in their influences on children's socio-emotional development during early childhood and across the transition to primary school.

Method: Based on a pooled sample of 636 US-American children who took part in the longitudinal NICHD Study of Early Childcare and Youth Development (SECCYD), we applied fixed-effects panel models to three time points between age 3 and first grade.

Results: Whereas changes in parental relationships quality were not significant in predicting children's socio-emotional development from age 3 to 4.5 years, our results showed that a reduction in parental relationship quality was moderately associated with an increase in behaviour problems of children across the transition to first grade. We did not find any evidence of mitigating effects of the child-specific process quality of the ECEC arrangement, neither for informal nor formal care settings.

Conclusion: The results suggest that initiatives designed to improve a couple’'s relationship quality might also be an effective way to further their children’s socio-emotional development.




How to Cite

Fischer, I., Schober, P. S., & Nagengast, B. (2021). Parental relationship quality and children’s behavioural problems: Childcare quality as a protective factor?. Journal of Family Research, 33(3), 703–733.