Emotional security theory illustrates the significance of children’s reactions to interparental conflict as a mediator of the associations between interparental conflict and children’s well-being. Less is known about infants’ emotional security. The current study assessed the stability of emotional security over infancy through preschool years. We also assessed whether infant emotional insecurity mediated between interparental conflict during infancy and preschooler adjustment. Seventy-four families with infants aged 6–14 months participated at Time 1. Parents engaged in a conflict resolution task with their infants present. Families returned when children were 3–5 years old (Time 2). Families engaged in the same conflict resolution task and parents additionally completed the Strengths and Difficulty Questionnaire to assess preschooler adjustment. Cluster analyses revealed two classes of infants based on conflict responses at Time 1: secure and insecure. The insecure group demonstrated higher levels of distress, frustration, physical frustration, and dysregulation compared to the secure group. These classifications remained relatively stable over Times 1 and 2. Infant emotional security mediated associations between Time 1 interparental conflict and preschooler adjustment, even when considering preschooler emotional security. Our results highlight the lasting legacy of destructive conflict on infants’ still developing security systems.
Part of the book: Parenting