Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology


Counseling Psychology

Content Description

1 online resource (vii, 56 pages) : illustrations.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Myrna L Friedlander

Committee Members

Kimberly F Colvin, Laurie Heatherington


attachment avoidance, attachment insecurity, divorce, interparental conflict, romantic relationship satisfaction, Adult children of divorced parents, Intimacy (Psychology), Interpersonal relations, Attachment behavior, Satisfaction

Subject Categories

Counseling Psychology


Research has shown that children of divorce who are exposed to high levels of interparental conflict tend to have worse adult outcomes than individuals not so exposed (e.g., Gager, Yabiku, & Linver, 2016), including damage to their romantic relationships (Cui, Fincham, & Durtschi, 2011; Feeney, 2006). The present study investigated the contributing role of adult attachment insecurity (i.e., attachment avoidance and attachment anxiety) to the relation between recollections of interparental conflict during childhood and adult romantic relationship satisfaction. A convenience sample of 678 U.S. participants (319 men, 345 women) whose parents had divorced prior to their reaching age 18 completed the Children’s Perception of Interparental Conflict (CPIC; Grych, Seid, & Fincham, 1992), the Experiences in Close Relationships-Revised (Fraley, Waller, & Brennan, 2000), and the Couples Satisfaction Index-4 (CSI-4; Funk & Rogge, 2007). Two theorized models were tested with Avoidance and Anxiety as moderators and mediators using Hayes’s (2017) PROCESS macro. Results showed that Avoidance, controlling for Anxiety, significantly moderated the relation between CPIC and CSI-4 scores, where highly avoidant participants who recalled high levels of interparental conflict in childhood reported significantly less adult relationship satisfaction. Moreover, a post-hoc analysis showed that Avoidance partially mediated the relation between Threat (a CPIC subscale) and relationship satisfaction. No gender differences were found, and Anxiety was neither a significant moderator nor a mediator. Contrary to previous studies (e.g., Cusimano & Riggs, 2013), participants’ retrospective reports of interparental conflict were not significantly associated with attachment insecurity, likely due to the narrower sampling of adults whose parents had divorced during their childhood. This result calls into question the widely held belief that divorce, when paired with high levels of interparental conflict, leads to poor relationship adjustment. Rather, the present findings suggest that this outcome is most likely for adults with high levels of attachment avoidance, which may develop when children feel threatened by interparental conflict. Taken together, the present results support previous research indicating that avoidance is the more problematic dimension of attachment insecurity in romantic relationships (Li & Chan, 2012) and the more difficult dimension to modify in psychotherapy (Wiseman & Tishby, 2014).