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Is marital satisfaction a moderator in the relation between developmental risk and child behavior problems?
Children with developmental delays have been found to be at higher risk for behavior problems. Marital satisfaction has been found to have strong correlations with child behavior problems. Based on existing research, it is not yet clear whether marital satisfaction plays a role in the development of child behavior problems for families of children with developmental delays. The purpose of this study was to examine marital satisfaction as a moderator in the relation between developmental risk group (children with or without developmental delays) and child behavior problems. Participants included 58 families with a focal child aged 3-5 years of which 29 were children with developmental delays and 29 were children who were typically developing. Children completed a developmental assessment of intelligence, and parents completed questionnaires regarding marital satisfaction and child behavior problems. Results indicated that mothers’ marital satisfaction was found to significantly moderate the relation between developmental risk group and mothers’ ratings of child behavior problems; specifically, children’s internalizing and total behavior problems. When mothers’ marital satisfaction was low, child behavior problems were similar across developmental risk groups. Yet, when mothers’ marital satisfaction was high, mothers rated their typically developing children as having significantly fewer behavior problems than mothers of children with developmental delays. Fathers’ marital satisfaction was not found to moderate the relation between child developmental risk and child behavior problems. No significant differences were found in regard to mother and father marital satisfaction. Fathers of children with developmental delays, as compared to fathers of children who were typically developing, were found to rate their child as having significantly more internalizing behavior problems. Ultimately, the inclusion of fathers’ unique perspectives proved worthwhile in the current study. In addition, marital satisfaction plays an important role in mothers’ ratings of internalizing and total behavior problems.