Predictors of between-family and within-family variation in parent-child relationships

T G O'Connor, J Dunn, J M Jenkins, J Rasbash

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Previous studies have found that multiple factors are associated with parent-child relationship quality, but have not distinguished potential sources of between-family and within-family variation in parent-child relationship quality. Methods: Approximately equal numbers of biological (non-stepfamilies), single-mother, stepfather, and complex/stepmother stepfamilies were selected from a large community study in England. The sample comprised 404 children in 171 families. Parent-child warmth/support and conflict/negativity were assessed using questionnaire and interview methods; family socio-demographic data were collected from parent report. Results: Multilevel model analyses indicated substantial within-family variation in parent-child relationship quality, and greater within-family variation in complex/stepmother families compared to other family types. Within-family variation was largely accounted for by differences in the siblings' biological relatedness to the mother and father and to child-specific factors, notably aggressive behavior. Conclusions: The findings illustrate how research using multilevel model designs and analytic strategies may enhance our understanding of family process
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)498 - 510
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2006


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