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FRIHUMSAM-Fri hum og sam

Dynamics of family conflicts: Macro and micro perspectives on parental conflicts across family settings

Alternative title: Familierelasjoner: Makro and mikro-perspektiver på foreldrekonflikter og samspill i ulike familietyper.

Awarded: NOK 9.0 mill.

Interparental conflicts (IPC) are associated with significant difficulties for children. However, family relationships and IPC have been investigated to a limited extent in Norway and the Nordic countries. The main purpose of this project is to provide new knowledge about what is related to particularly harmful conflicts between parents and how children are affected by parents' interactions and conflicts, both in families where parents live together and where they live apart. We focus on how both societal and intra-familial processes may be linked to whether conflicts increase or decrease over time, and how they relate to developmental difficulties for children. The Covid-19 pandemic has dominated society and family life in Norway since March 2020, and has affected the conditions for doing research on how families develop over time. FamilieForSK had recently started the second wave of data collection (W2) in March 2020, and the data collection routines had to be changed due to social distancing. In addition, it soon became clear that the pandemic would be an important confounder in many research questions in this project. However, this project was also suddenly in a unique position to investigate how vulnerable families were affected by the pandemic, in accordance with the intention of the project to provide knowledge about how children, parents and family life is affected by societal factors. We therefore carried out three additional waves of data collections throughout the pandemic, and have focused on family life during the pandemic in three recent publications is the project. We completed the recruitment of families for the project and Wave 1 of data collection in 2019. A total of 3 200 families have agreed to participate. This includes about 400 families from the Norwegian Mother and Child Study (MoBa) and about 2800 families recruited from family counselling centres across Norway. In the latter sample, mothers, fathers and children aged 7-15 years participate in the study, in addition to kindergarten teachers / teachers for children under the age of 7 and a mediator or family therapist/mediators. Wave 2 started in November 2019 and was finalized in December 20200. The three additional data collections (W3-W5) were carried out in April-June 2020, December 2020 and June 2021, respectively. National registry linkages are delayed due to the pandemic, but are initiated in 2021. Still, without these, the five existing waves of data collections allow us to provide unique knowledge about how IPs develop over time, and which mechanisms that are involved when IPC affect children to a smaller or larger extent. Wave 2 has been somewhat delayed due to Covid-19, as children interviews had to be stopped and re-organized. They are now carried out through video links. Work on linking data from families with data from national registries will start in 2021, once Wave to is completed. When the data from Wave 2 and registry links are complete, the material can be used to provide unique knowledge about how IPC develop over time, and what mechanisms are related to the association between IPC and child maladjustment. This far, eight scientific papers from the project have been published or accepted for publication, with four more being prepared or have been submitted to journals. The published papers span widely within the span of the project, from validation of measures of IPC for use in research and services in the Nordic countries, to exploration of patterns of IPC across family types, children's reactions to IPC and the importance of conflicts for children's potential to express their opinions, and how children and family life have been affected by the pandemic. The research group is currently being establishing as a resource environment for policy makers and relevant services. Preliminary results have therefore been presented at seminars and meetings for relevant services and policy makers in Norway, as well as at several international research conferences. The dissemination of the knowledge from the project to relevant parties is thus already ongoing.


Family conflict dynamics have profound effects on children and parents, but have not been adequately investigated in Scandinavia. We therefore lack a scientific basis for knowledge about parental conflicts and child maladjustment within the Norwegian welfare context. This study will address important knowledge gaps by combining contextual, familial and individual data about family members across family structures (i.e. intact versus dissolved) and time. We aim for a pioneering study that will move beyond conventional family studies by enabling longitudinal investigations including both micro and macro level perspectives on parental conflicts. The project will provide longitudinal multi-informant data from 2100 families across three different family settings; dissolving couples; intact couples with relationship problems; and intact families from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort study (MoBa). We will collect accurate and rich interview and questionnaire data from parents and children themselves and staff at child care and family welfare centers. Using MoBa will also guarantee information about long term risk and protective factors from pregnancy onward. Information about long term outcomes will be collected through linkage with national registries, providing unique data. The Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs (Bufdir) supports the project and guarantees contributions from family welfare centers, in which most of the recruitment will be based. Bufdir also provides funding for a validation study and the first MoBa data collection. Anchoring this project within the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and with a substantial network of high-expertise national and international collaborators from different disciplines of social sciences, guarantees an excellent theoretical and practical execution of the project. This optimizes the concurrent and long term value of the data and ensures an extensive communication of the results to the public

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FRIHUMSAM-Fri hum og sam