Inter-parental relationship quality and its effects on children: A literature review to support analysis and policy

This report reviews current international and national literature about how interactions between parents influence children’s wellbeing and developmental outcomes.

The aim of the review is to strengthen understanding of how interactions between parents influence children’s outcomes to support future New Zealand-based research and to support policy.

Evidence shows that negative inter-parental relationship quality affects children’s outcomes (however, there is relatively little evidence about the impact of positive inter-parental interactions on children).

The level of the effect on children’s outcomes varies across studies, potentially due to differences in level and type of parent-parent interactions, the type of outcomes and the developmental stages of the children.

Current literature indicates that primary prevention of negative parent-parent interactions is needed as it has a direct effect on children’s outcomes. Although there are gaps in understanding, there are multiple potentially modifiable factors that need to be considered in policy to support positive development and mitigate effects of negative parent-parent interactions.

Evidence suggests that effectively addressing the negative consequences of parental conflict and violence on children’s development requires policy and practice involving a range of actors within a child’s network of developmental relationships and a range of stressors within their environments.

The literature review was produced by the Ministry’s Research and Evaluation team.

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