Objective: The goal of this study was to provide the first empirical investigation of associations among interparental conflict, adolescents' attention to emotion in interpersonal interactions, and adolescents' anxiety. Background: Previous research suggests that both interparental conflict and attention biases have implications for youth anxiety. Method: Adolescents (n = 60, aged 10–19 years) viewed neutral versus emotional (angry, happy) photo pairs of interpersonal interactions while gaze was measured using an eye-tracking camera. Adolescents also reported their anxiety symptoms. Parents' self-reported characteristics of their conflict were observed during an interparental conflict discussion. Results: Parents who displayed less positive conflict behavior had adolescents who spent more time attending to angry interpersonal interactions; more negative conflict behavior by parents predicted less time attending to happy interpersonal interactions by adolescents. Interparental conflict interacted with attention to angry interpersonal interactions in relation to adolescent anxiety: More negative marital conflict was related to increased anxiety symptoms only when adolescents also displayed an attention bias toward angry interactions. Conclusion: Interparental conflict and attention to angry interpersonal interactions may be risk factors for adolescent anxiety and interact in predicting anxiety. Implications: Efforts aimed at improving the mental health of youth from poor-quality family environments may benefit from considering strategies to modify attention to angry interpersonal interactions.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Social Sciences (miscellaneous)