The Family Responses to Conflict Scale: Development of a measure of marital conflict and children's exposure and reactions

Date of Completion

January 1989


Psychology, Social




The Family Responses to Conflict Scale (FRCS), a measure of violent and nonviolent marital conflict tactics, and children's exposure and immediate reactions to parental behaviors, was examined for scale properties and relationships with a number of family- and child-based variables. Clustered random sampling was used to solicit participation in an initial telephone contact. Approximately two-thirds of eligible respondents agreed to participate by mail; of these, 77% returned completed questionnaires, for a total of 174 families and 350 children.^ Factor analyses yielded four factors of men's conflict behaviors and three factors for women, all measuring abusive behaviors. The subscales' internal consistency reliabilities and discriminant validities, using measures of marital adjustment and social desirability responding, were satisfactory. A consistent pattern of intercorrelations among the factors was obtained. Subscale means were in the low to moderate range, and decreased with increasingly abusive behaviors. Forty percent of the sample reported some occurrence of physical or sexual abuse.^ Four factors were formed for children's awareness of parental conflict behaviors, using several scoring systems. Reliabilities were satisfactory for two subscales, and low or not calculable due to low variance for the other two. These subscales were not correlated with social desirability. Some intercorrelations among the factors were significant. A pattern of means similar to that for parents' behaviors was obtained. Children's reactions were measured by non-independent, nominal data, so analyses were limited to a descriptive presentation.^ Predictions for the relationships between the FRCS measures and other variables were often confirmed, and usually consistent with previous research. Marital conflict behaviors were predicted in regression analyses by variables describing conflict, such as frequency, duration, and resulting injuries. Children's awareness was predicted by these variables and mean rates of various types of parental conflict behavior. Children's behavior problems, as measured by a standardized inventory, were predicted by family-based measures, most notably parental conflict variables, and were correlated with some types of awareness and social desirability. Few intersibling variations within families were found.^ A critique of the methods used and results obtained is presented. Suggestions for future research on children's exposure to parental conflict are offered. ^