Topics of Conflict Across Family Subsystems

Noah B. Larsen, Allen W. Barton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present study investigated topics of conflict across multiple family subsystems (i.e., the romantic couple, parent–adolescent, and parent–younger child) in present-day American families. Research questions were addressed from a nationwide sample of 593 adults parenting at least one child. Findings highlight the heightened severity of conflict in the couple relationship relative to equivalent topics appearing in parent–child subsystems as well as topics with greater conflict severity between parents and adolescents (e.g., being distant) and topics with greater severity between parents and younger children (e.g., food/picky eating). Salient sources of conflict in present-day families (e.g., technology/phone use in the parent–adolescent subsystem, mood and tempers in all subsystems) were also identified. Findings from the study illustrate ways in which conflict topics appear similarly and differently across distinct family subsystems as well as which conflict topics have changed in families over time and those that have remained constant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Family Issues
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • conflict
  • couples
  • families
  • parent–child relationship

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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