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Guide

Measuring parental conflict and its impact on child outcomes

Guidance on selecting and using valid, reliable and practical measures to evaluate interventions

This practical guide has been developed to improve understanding of how to measure if the outcomes of the parents and children affected by parental conflict have improved after an intervention or access to services.

Summary

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Full report

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Conflict between parents – whether together or separated – is a normal part of relationships. However, there is a strong body of evidence suggesting that when parental conflict is frequent, intense and poorly resolved, it can have a significant negative impact on children’s outcomes.

Supporting healthy relationships between parents is therefore an increasingly important focus for early intervention and local family services. However, it is not always easy to select child and family outcome measures that will tell you if an intervention is making a difference to the lives of families. 

This guide identifies measures that can be used to assess progress for individual families, and explores how valid, reliable and practical these tools are. While it is framed with reducing parental conflict in mind, it could also be of value to those involved with children and family services more broadly. 

Child outcomes include:

  • Internalising behaviours, characterised by symptoms of withdrawal, inhibition, fearfulness, sadness, shyness, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression and suicidality in its most extreme.
  • Externalising behaviours, characterised by a broad set of behavioural difficulties, including aggression, hostility, non-compliant and disruptive behaviours, verbal and physical violence, anti-social behaviour, conduct disorder, delinquency and even vandalism.

Interparental (or couple) relationship outcomes include:

  • Relationship quality, including factors around couple satisfaction, commitment, communication, respect, consensus and shared interests.
  • Parental conflict, specifically the frequency and intensity of conflict, conflict resolution skills, and children’s perception of and adjustment to the conflict between parents.
  • Co-parenting practices, including parents’ ability to cooperate and communicate when performing parenting duties.

This guide includes 18 measures, seven assessing child outcomes and 11 assessing interparental (or couple) relationship outcomes.

Each measure has been assessed against EIF criteria for how valid, reliable and practical they are. We also provide practical guidance on how to select and implement the most appropriate measure to evaluate the impact of your service or intervention.

Measures assessed

Child outcome measures 

  • Child Behaviour Checklist (CBCL/6–18)
  • Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ)
  • Mood and Feelings Questionnaire (MFQ)
  • Revised Child Anxiety and Depression Scale (RCADS)
  • Screen for Child Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders (SCARED)
  • Eyberg Child Behavior Inventory (ECBI)
  • Parent Daily Report (PDR)

Interparental outcome measures

  • Couples Satisfaction Index (CSI-16)
  • Dyadic Adjustment Scale (DAS-32)
  • Dyadic Adjustment Scale (DAS-7)
  • Golombok Rust Inventory of Marital State (GRIMS) 
  • Marital Adjustment Test (MAT) 
  • Relationship Quality Index (RQI)
  • Children's Perception of Interparental Conflict Scale (CPIC)
  • O'Leary Porter Scale (OPS)
  • Parenting Alliance Measure (PAM)
  • Parent Problem Checklist (PPC)
  • Quality of Co-parental Communication Scale (QCCS)

Summary reports of our assessments are included in the main report. Full reports of our assessments are available to download below.

About the authors

Dr Inês Pote

Inês is a senior research officer at EIF.

Dr Virginia Ghiara

Virginia is a research officer at EIF.

Laura Stock

Laura is a senior research officer at EIF.

Tom McBride

Tom is director of evidence at EIF.