• Article

Marital disturbance and child problems: a cautionary note regarding hyperactive children

In previous work, investigators have found a relationship between marital discord and childhood conduct problems (aggression) in clinic samples. Given the wide variability of aggression found among hyperactive children, it would follow from previous work that child aggression may be associated with marital discord in a hyperactive population. This hypothesis was tested in a sample of 23 boys (ages 5 to 8) diagnosed as attention deficit with hyperactivity. Aggressive behaviors were tracked by the children's teachers for 12 school days. Parental and teacher ratings of conduct problems were also obtained. Additionally, the auditory version of the laboratory Continuous Performance Test was administered. Marital adjustment, overt hostility, and conflict tactics, as reported by the mothers, were not significantly correlated with any of the measures of aggression or conduct problems. In other words, marital discord in families with a hyperactive boy did not explain differential rates of aggressive behavior despite definite variability in both the marital and child behavioral measures. Marital discord was marginally related to severity of attentional deficit on the Continuous Performance Test. The results underscore the need for caution in attempting to extend findings from a general population (i.e., undifferentiated clinic-referred children) to a specific diagnostic subgroup (i.e., attention-deficit hyperactive children)


Prinz, RJ., Myers, DR., Holden, E., Tarnowski, KJ., & Roberts, WA. (1983). Marital disturbance and child problems: a cautionary note regarding hyperactive children. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 11(3), 393-399.