This study examined the reciprocal relationship between childhood emotional insecurity, later adult self-esteem, and marital conflict in South Korean couples.
Current literature on intergenerational transmission of marital relationships lacks a dyadic perspective for understanding how spouses influence the relationship between childhood emotional insecurity and adulthood marital conflict.
The actor–partner interdependence model was employed to test spillover and crossover effects using data from 210 South Korean couples with children age 3–5 years.
Childhood emotional insecurity was associated with marital conflict in both women and men. Additionally, this relationship was mediated by lower levels of self-esteem. However, the mediating effect was stronger for women than for men. Furthermore, women experiencing emotional insecurity during childhood positively affected their spouses’ destructive marital conflict coping strategies through lower self-esteem, whereas men’s childhood emotional insecurity did not affect their spouses’ destructive marital conflict through self-esteem.
This study provides strong evidence to explain the mechanism of intergenerational transmission in marital conflicts.
Future research on intergenerational transmission of marital relationships should consider the influence of the family of origin and the interactions between couples by considering the family as an interdependent dynamic system.