Measuring parental conflict and its impact on child outcomes

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

This project or publication was produced before or during the merger of What Works for Children’s Social Care (WWCSC) and the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF).

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.

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)
  • Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire for 2–4 year olds (SDQ 2–4)
  • 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

  • Acrimony Scale
  • 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)
  • Parental Stress Scale (PSS)
  • Quality of Co-parental Communication Scale (QCCS)

Full Report

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Summary

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Revised Anxiety and Depression Scale (RCADS)

Download

Screen for Child Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders (SCARED)

Download

Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ)

Download

Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire for 2-4 Year Olds(SDQ 2-4)

Download

Children's Perception of Interparental Conflict Scale (CPIC)

Download

Couple Satisfaction Index (CSI-16)

Download

Dyadic Adjustment Scale (DAS-7)

Download

Dyadic Adjustment Scale (DAS-32)

Download

Golombok Rust Inventory of Marital State (GRIMS)

Download

Marital Adjustment Test (MAT)

Download

O'Leary Porter Scale (OPS)

Download

Parenting Alliance Measure (PAM)

Download

Parent Problem Checklist (PPC)

Download

Quality of Co-parental Communication Scale (QCCS)

Download

Relationship Quality Index (RQI)

Download

Parental Stress Scale (PSS)

Download

Acrimony Scale

Download

Child Behaviour Checklist (CBCL 6-18)

Download

Eyberg Child Behaviour Inventory (ECBI)

Download

Mood and Feelings Questionnaire (MFQ)

Download

Parent Daily Report (PDR)

Download

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