The sample consisted of 161 children ages 9-12 (M = 10.37 years, SD = 1.08 years), their mothers (M = 36.65 years, SD = 4.92 years) and teachers. All families expressed interest in participating in an experimental trial of a prevention program for divorced families; about half refused participation after the initial interview but agreed to complete later interviews (n=85), the others were randomly assigned to the self-study control condition (n=76). After the initial interview (T1), families and teachers completed interviews three (T2) and six (T3) months later. Children completed the Perceptions of Interparental Conflict scale at T1 and the Children’s Cognitions about Divorce Situations Scale, a general coping efficacy scale, and the Children’s Coping Strategies Checklist at T2. At T1 and T3, mothers completed the Child Behavior Checklist, children completed the Children’s Depression Inventory and Revised Manifest Anxiety Scale, and teachers completed a behavior problem scale. Path analysis was used to examine effects.
Coping efficacy significantly mediated the relations between IPC and child-, mother-, and teacher-reported adjustment problems. Negative and positive appraisal biases significantly mediated the relations between IPC and child-reported adjustment problems. Active coping strategies significantly mediated the relations between IPC and mother-reported adjustment problems.
Identifying modifiable mediators is critical for developing prevention programs to reduce the negative impact of IPC on children’s post-divorce mental health outcomes. This study’s use of a longitudinal design and multiple reports of children’s adjustment provided a rigorous test of the role of three cognitive and behavioral coping processes. Although support was found for all three processes, mediational effects were found for appraisal biases across all three reporters of children’s adjustment problems. These findings suggest that cognitive and behavioral coping processes should be a central focus in prevention programs designed for children in divorced families.