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Chapter 2: Review of the Effects of Marital Conflict on Academic Development of Students (A Study)


This research is organized and published as follow:

Chapter 1: Introduction to Academic Development of Students

Chapter 2: Review of the Effects of Marital Conflict on Academic Development of Students

Chapter 3: Methodology, population & Sample

Chapter 4: Analysis of Results and Test of Hypotheses

Chapter 5: Conclusion & Recommendations

2.1     Conceptual Framework

This chapter deals with the opinion of scholars on issues relating to the effects of marital conflict on academic development. The chapter is divided into the following subheadings: Theoretical framework of the study: the concept of conflict, causes of marital conflict, effects of marital conflict on children, effects of marital conflicts on academic development, and the relationship between marital conflict and examination malpractices.

2.1.1   The concept of conflict

Conflicts usually occur when two people believe that their desires, aspirations, and interests can no longer be simultaneously achieved. It is a common occurrence in life and arises within and among people, including friends, couples, family members or community members, and even political cabals. Conflict involves apparent, but not always actual opposition between two or more people. Many writers understood conflict in different ways. Webster Dictionary (1995) defined conflict as a fight, battle, struggle, sharp disagreement, clash, the opposition of interest, idea, etc. in other words, conflict connotes warfare, crisis, violence, and stress.

According to Omojola (1998:57) conflict is a clash of interest and personality. Ezegbe (1997:69-72) says that conflict is the mutual hostility at inter-personal, inter-human, inter-actions levels. This mutual hostility can be verbal, physical, or emotional depending on the nature of the conflict. Within the marital setting verbal hostility could be expressed in form of rebukes, insults, name-calling, etc. while physical hostility is expressed in the form of fighting, inflicting injuries, termination of the relationship, etc. In his own, Goldberg & Goldberg (1990:229-231) connotes conflict to mean the collision, clash, or to be in opposition or at variance with somebody. He narrates conflict to mean strife, controversy, and discord of action or any other action related to hostility. Furthermore, Ogunna (1993:145) sees conflict as a situation in which persons or groups disagree over means or ends and try to establish their views in preference to others. It is also a behavior by a person or group that is purposefully designed to block the attainment of goals by another person or group.

Conflict is said to emerge whenever two or more persons or groups seek to possess the same object, occupy the same space of the exclusive position, play incompatible roles, maintain goals or undertake mutually incompatible means for achieving their purposes. In discussing conflict, Robbins (1978:149) viewed conflict from an administrative lens and defined it as all kinds of opposition or antagonistic interaction. Because of the scarcity of resources, power, or social position conflict may connote animalistic, violence, destruction, barbarism, and loss of civilized control and rationality. It may also connote adventure, novelty, clarification, growth, and dialectal rationality. In conflicts, the disputants are usually aggressive toward one another to achieve preconceived objectives. Thus, conflicts are sometimes seen as clashes in opinion. A conflict is a form of stressful situation that consists of two incompatible responses or goals, which result from the necessity of choosing between two needs or goals. Most societies are characterized by conflicts, stresses, and divorces in the family; a satisfactory marriage is one free from all these.

Though some people view conflict as undesirable, its importance in the life of an organization cannot be overemphasized. In any organization, the emergence of some form of conflict is one of the most significant forces of change in the organization. Based on this, Robbins (1978: 149-151) opined that conflict could be functional; it can be functional when it brings positive results. It is a reality in an organization, yet it is generally viewed negatively by practicing administrators. He observed that conflict is not necessarily a negative term; it has its value to the organization. A functional conflict will then be that which represents confrontation, reaction opposition, or antagonistic interaction that benefits and or supports the goals of the organization. In order words, functional conflict is said to occur when the outcomes lead to improved effectiveness. On the other hand, Koch, Tung, Gamelch, and Swent (1982:159-164), assert that conflict is a potent force because it disrupts established and routine patterns based on shared expectations, predictable behavior, and acknowledge loyalties. When conflict produces disruption, considerable energy and time are expended, like those in conflict try to redistribute budget, re-order their priorities, redefines the procedure for decision-making, or redistribute tasks. Based on the foregoing it could be said that conflict is an integral part of the process of change and it can be positive rather than negative in the development of any unit.

2.1.2   The concept of marital conflict

Marital conflicts refer to difficult relationships experienced by husband and wife in their marriage. It is the disagreement or squabble between husband and wife in their marriage relationship. No particular marriage could be ascribed a perfect one; conflicts are bound to emanate from marriages and can arise when the misunderstanding is the order of the day between spouses. In some families, especially the illiterate and poor ones, who do not understand the basic concept of marriage, but sees it as an avenue for baby-making, the pre-requisites of a peaceful home through happiness may not be a vital condition to be met. Such marriages may spring out conflicts where relationships such as parent-child, spouse-spouse, spouse-in-law relationships lack peace and harmony.

Marital conflict has constituted a serious threat to the social and economic stability of Nigeria (Nnenna and Nweke, 1989:29-32). The ill has partly been blamed on marriage with biases for wealth, unemployment, and lack of pre-marital counseling. According to Nwoye (1991:13), conflict in marriage refers to dissensions between marital partners over values, beliefs, goals, mores, and behaviors that make up the structure of the nuclear unit. In other words, marital conflict is a negative interaction in marriage, which can be verbal, or non-verbal, or both in which the husband and the wife aim to neutralize, injure, and disgrace each other. A marital conflict could be viewed as the failure of husband and wife to perform their role obligations in marriage. Marital conflict or instability can be equated to disorganization and perceived unstable marriage as a problem-ridden. In our present society, marriage institution has been affected by problems, which is as a result of social changes. It seems likely that the impact of such changes is becoming more drastic, negative, and severe on marriage.

Alan and Johnson (1983:373-387) described marital conflict to refer to marital disruption, low marital quality, and less frequent desertion, which affects the stability of marriage. According to them, marital crises can be described as periods or situations in the marriage, which require some adjustment so that harmony in marriage relationships can be restored. A marital crisis can either come from within or outside the family. Also, many ordinary situations can often develop into crises when the ability to deal with their demands is not there. In the same development, they also said that conflicts in relationships are often experienced in crises as a result of the destructive nature of the crisis.

According to Bornstein & Bornstein (1986:79-83) studies in marital conflict demonstrated that much overt conflict is symbolic of some underlying tension in an area of behavior than the one in which the overt is manifested. In the same line, Saxton (1972:95) stated that there are two categories of marital conflicts: internal and external. To him, internal conflict is when the two opposing needs that produce the conflict are felt by one person only but the conflict affects the couple in their relationship, while it is external when there are two opposing needs between the couples, one person wants what the other does not want.

Nwoye (1991:13) noted that conflict may center on any or all conceivable areas of interaction in marriage relationships such as economic, leisure, child-rearing, decision making, role demand, religion, social activities, sex relations, lack of communication, extra-marital affairs among others. A failure in marital relationships is an indication of the presence of marital conflicts.

2.2     Theories of Marital Conflict

The following theories would help explain the concept of marital conflict and dysfunction.

2.2.1   The psychodynamic theory

This theory emanates from the classical psychoanalytic approach (Misbach, 1948: 143-156). According to Misbach, human behavior is controlled by irrational instincts and conscious mental processes. Most of our behavior arises from the unconscious, the pool house where repressed memories and desires are stored because of societal fear and shame. This theory hence proposes that to discover what has gone wrong in a given marital conflict, the marriage counselor needs to probe into the deep-seated character traits of the two personalities involved (Sholfer & Shoben, 1986: 72-75). In following this framework the counselor is required to focus on his diagnostic observation while conducting the counseling, towards determining the extent to which one can say for sure or not, that the presenting discord in the marriage is a function of neurotic conflicts between the two parties concerned (Okorie, 2009: 39-42).

The psychodynamic theory of marital dysfunction assumes that a problem exists in a marriage where couples have divergent personalities that make them act separately in their marriage relationship. According to the theory, a healthy or integrated marriage can be characterized as one where:

  1. The couple has a basic friendship with one another.
  2. The couple enjoys being in each other’s presence and will feel a vacuum when the other is away from the home.
  3. The couple clearly defines and redefines their responsibilities in the economic and social decisions of the home as well as in the support and supply of the home.
  4. The couple trusts each other’s judgment in critical life decisions and does not question or take for granted each other’s sincerity and fidelity in the marriage.
  5. The couple communicates freely and openly with one another.
  6. The couple has gained some measure of freedom from the domination of the significant outsiders such as the in-laws, the neighbors, and the friends of both parties.
  7. The couple is resolutely agreed, to make the marriage last despite all threats against the union from within or outside the marriage.

While a marital conflict situation could be described as where:

  1. The married couple is unfriendly with each other and is likely to be so whether they are married or merely related as friends.
  2. The couple is deeply suspicious of each other, distrust each other’s judgment.
  3. The basic roles of married people are confused or neglected to lead to being irresponsible.
  4. There is a lack of communication and each one hides vital information from the other.
  5. The couple has only their basic motivation and behavior geared towards how to neutralize and isolate the marriage from the rest of their lives, or how to resolve it and bring the union to a successful and hasty end.

In this kind of situation, insignificant injustices are magnified out of proportion to reality, responsibility for failure is always blamed or projected on the others, feeling of being misunderstood, mistreated, and persecuted permeate the day to day operation of the home, self-exaltation and delusions of perception take the place of honest participation in human frailty and sharing of responsibility for error, plotting and scheming takes the planning and sharing, etc. (Shaw, 1982:143-48).

2.2.2   The structural theory

This theory stipulates that in marriage, conflicts arise when the couple finds it difficult to interact positively in their relationship by allowing significant others like in-laws, business associates, colleagues at the office, friends, and neighbors to influence the relationship in their marriage. This theory postulates that marital conflict arises where the personality of one of the parties in marriage swallows the personality of the other (Minuchin, 1974:295). According to Minuchin, structural marital conflict results when one couple’s interest clashes with the interest of the other or when couples’ approach to marital problems is immature.

2.2.3   The role theory

The role theory states that conflict in marriage arises as a result of the disagreement between partners on their different role expectations. According to Magnus (1957), the role theory assumes that before marriage:

  1. Each partner in a marriage relationship usually enters the marriage with the perceptions of how he or she should behave and how the other partner should behave.
    1. Each marriage partner harbors expectations on how the roles expected of the other should be executed.

However, problems or conflict arises when these interpersonal role expectations conflict or disagree. Magnus (1957:200-202) noted that this disagreement in marital role expectations arise due mainly to the fact that the two parties in the marriage come from different family/ social backgrounds and usually lack the opportunity to sit down to discuss and harmonize for themselves what each is expected to do in the marriage, before and after marriage. Based on these formulations, the role theory assumes that marital harmony, in general, is established where the following conditions are fulfilled:

  1. The parties agree clearly on their norms and on what to expect from each other in marriage.
    1. The parties agree among themselves as to the role definition and expectations each holds about each other, and
    1. Where positive sanctions are used regularly to reward role performance of one partner that the other agrees with the role expectations of the other.

Marriage partners enter into marriage with divergent opinions about what to expect of each other in their marriage. The theory holds that, when couples fail to reach a consensus in the roles each party has to play in the family, such a couple usually have a problem in their home.

2.2.4   The marital communication theory

Weakland (1956:178) propounded the marital communication model. According to him, conflict in marriage arises due to inappropriate communication. The theory stipulates that conflict ensues in a marriage relationship in a situation where there are confusion and lack of clarity in the communication pattern of husband and wife. This is a situation when the partner who is receiving the message of the communication finds it very difficult to make meaning out of the communication. When there are confusion and lack of understanding in the communication between couples, the tendency is for the confused partner to reject the communication thereby creating a vacuum, which leads to conflict. Also, the presence of noise in the communication network leads to conflict in marriage. Filani (1985:96-105) reported that a lack of communication among couples is an important source of marital problems. This is because many things are repressed and left unsaid. The result of this leads to bitterness, frustration, and tension within either of the partners.

The theory recognizes three levels of human communication where conflict can arise. Such levels are at the syntactical level, the semantic level, and the pragmatic level in the communication networks. The syntactical level refers to the way the information is transmitted; the semantic aspect refers to when the information, is received by the receiver while the pragmatic aspect has to do with the effect of the information on one another. The marital communication theory model stipulates that problems arise in a marriage when couples fail in their relationship to understand information conveyed by each other.

2.2.5   The social learning theory

The social learning theory stipulates that marital conflict results from the interaction of couples as well as the influence of significant others in their life. Their actions or activities are the product of their interaction with the environment as well as the behavior of the individuals/ couples. The social learning theory as propounded by Bandura (1977:74) assumes that conflict in marriage is the responsibilities of both husband and wife. It established that couples in interaction have to be blamed for any marital conflict that arose in the relationship. It further stated that the root cause of the marital problems may be from friends, peer groups, neighbors, colleagues in the same religion, or from in-laws.

According to the theory, when a marriage fails to function effectively the cause may be traced from the parents where parents were models to their children. This is based because people learn through imitation. The tendency is that after imitation and the partner, who acquires such tries to exhibit the behavior in his or her marriage, there is a likelihood that it may not be accepted by the other partner and may result in conflict.

The theoretical framework on which this study is based is on marital communication theory and social learning theory. This is because the marital communication theory model is explicit on what could cause marital conflict, which is inappropriate communication between couples. Weakland formulated this theory based upon the assumption that in any marriage relationship where there are confusion and lack of clarity in the communication pattern of husband and wife, conflict is bound to ensue in such marriage or when the partner who is receiving the message of the communication finds it very difficult to make meaning out of the communication. Discord will ensue if each of the partners sees his /her position as being superior to the other. In a situation where the couples fail to understand each other due to gender difference, age, educational qualification, or occupational status, conflicts will arise. The theory made it clear that when there is a lack of communication in any marriage, there is bound to be frustration and a situation of hate within either of the partner.

Also, the social learning theory which assumes that when conflicts occur in any marriage, it is the responsibilities of husband and wife and the couples have to be blamed for such. For Bandura, the root cause of the problem may be from friends, peer groups, neighbors, colleagues, or in-laws. This has to do with the age of the couples, length of marriage especially as concerns in law influence, educational qualification, and occupational status. The influence from their colleagues in school and office, the role each of the partners play according to the theory results from the interaction of couples with the significant others in their life. The theory emphasizes imitation as a major means of learning and when one of the exhibits such learned negative behavior there is every tendency that it might not be accepted by the other, this will result in conflict.

2.3     Causes of Marital Conflict

Several situations can account for conflict in a marriage relationship among couples. In a marriage relationship, love for one another is sometimes a function of contribution, though there is a general knowledge that love satisfies our emotional and psychological needs. In light of this, verbal expression of love may not be enough to sustain the marriage relationship especially, when children began to come and when responsibility began to pile up on the couples.

According to Sasse (1997:304-314) conflict is a disagreement/struggle between two or more people. Conflict is bound to be worse between people with stronger emotional intimacy. Many people engage in conflict mainly because they do not employ good decision – making procedures. Fighting is a matter of power-sharing, that is, everyone would like to get his or her way and no one likes to lose. Many couples neglect consideration of how they are going to make decisions and consequently often end up fighting about how the decision was made, even though they have little difficulty with the decision itself. Anger in the family could result in avoiding responsibility, neglect, thoughtlessness, unfaithfulness, and rejection. According to Kithaka (2006:6), marital conflict is all about differences. Without trust between two people, conflicts cannot be resolved. Negative feelings will prevail. Marital conflict can be divided into rational, irrational, overt, covert, acute, chronic, basic, non-basic, personal, and interpersonal (Gitaari, 2002:29-35). Gitaari identified the following as predominant causes of marital conflicts:  unrealistic expectations, external pressure, children, economic problems, and communication breakdown.

2.3.1   Unrealistic expectations

Unrealistic expectation follows the role theory of marital conflict where expectations of the couples are not met. These include men expecting their wives to be like their mother or better than the mothers; men expecting their wives to be angels; women expecting their husbands to be like their fathers or a man who is always at home and is soft and caring. At this stage, some couples who had dated for some time and experienced caring from each other might think that at marriage such caring may continue. But after a few weeks of being in the marriage relationship, the expectations were no longer met. Some of the couples get into marriage with the view of changing some of their spouses’ traits. They fail to understand that it is virtually impossible to change a grown-up. Instead, compromise and tolerance should be exercised. At this stage, there are bound to be conflicts.

2.3.2   External pressure

In line with the social learning theory, Gitaari (2002:29-35) observed that the following factors affect the couple and can sometimes if not well handled, create marital conflict.

Extended Family: The extended family can create sources of conflict for a couple.  Their demands and expectations can be a strain. The conflicts among family members can create struggles.  The physical distance between families can be a source of problems for a couple, not to mention the free advice that can be given. Having in-laws living with them and who might want to exercise right over their brother or sister. And when the man or woman chose to listen to his/her mother or father or let loose to them to help them run their home.

Career: The man or woman may engage in very busy careers that they do not have time for their families. This means that the couple has no time for each other and for their family which may lead them to listen to friends or follow friend’s advice in running their home. Also, there could be a situation whereby the husband and wife are working in different parts of the country for a long period. This long separation makes adjusting to each other very difficult. Thus, when they able to live together again, none is ready to submit to the other because each person is used to making their own decision.

2.3.3   Problem of childbearing

This problem is predominant in Nigerian society, especially, in Igboland. The Igbo custom demands that a man should have someone who would continue his lineage, especially, a boy. When a woman is not able to give birth to a baby boy, let alone not give birth at all, there is bound to be external pressure which may ignite internal pressure in the marriage relationship. In the parlance of Gitaari, lack of a girl means no wealth while lack of a boy means no future. Also, when children a present in the marriage, there is the tendency that the woman may be giving more attention to the children thus causing divided attention in the family. Other problems that childbearing may bring are birth control methods. There could arise a conflicting opinion between the husband and the wife on the use of family planning or the number of children to have. These issues could lead to conflict in the marriage. According to Watson (2017:3), no one is ever a mistake or a problem, yet children are something that couples fight about within marriage quite often.  He noted that couples usually fight over the following topics; when to have children, how many to have, how to discipline them, and how to educate them. Also, if one couple had children from another relationship, those issues are magnified. Kids can be a great source of blessing and fulfillment or they can be a great source of conflict. Cowan and Cowan (2000:17) demonstrated that the birth of a baby marks a decline in marital quality and an increase in marital distress.

2.3.4   Economic Problems

Finance is usually one of the major causes of marital conflict in modern society because money creates control, power, and trust. When one’s partner does not know how much money he/she earns and spends, it can result in insecurity, competition, and tension. If a husband divides all the money as he deems fit without involving the wife in decision-making, there could arise major problems. Mistrust and suspicion will always come in. There could also be a problem of lack of enough money to cater to the needs of the family. It results in tension and disharmony between husband and wife. Loss of employment is another problem and so is impulse buying.

2.3.5   Communication Breakdown

A couple needs to take and have a common understanding of children and money among others. When communication is poor or misunderstood, there are problems. Causes of poor or wrong communication include different cultures and where one has been brought up (rural or urban setting). Some communication killers include an explosion (being angry and complaining) and silence (refusing to point out when one wrongs you).

2.3.6   Sex

Most people do not expect the sexual relationship to be an issue when they get married. Married couples argue with each other about many sex-related issues including the frequency of sex outside of their marriage. For various reasons some couples just cannot function properly sexually, further stressing the marriage. They believe that area will be one that is very fulfilling, yet it becomes an area of frustration for many couples. Watson (2017:3) noted that there is so much more to this area of a marriage relationship than just being in bed together. According to Parrott and Parrott (2013:19-23), the number-one reason people report not having sex in their marriage is “Too tired,” followed closely by “Not in the mood.” Most of the time, that’s code, knowingly or not, for having mismatched sex drives.

2.4     Effects of Marital Conflict on Children

According to Walckner (2011:14-15), today’s parents are embracing the mindset of “staying together for the kids” out of a desire to protect their children from the pain of divorce. But parents must also protect their children by preventing conflict. Marital conflict, regardless of divorce, can have a long-term effect on children, including increasing the likelihood that children will experience relationship failure and divorce themselves in the future. Research shows that the highest occurrence of divorce is among those whose parents were classified as having a high conflict relationship and who also divorced. The second highest divorce rate was found among adult children whose parents did not divorce but were classified as having a high conflict relationship (Walckner, 2011:15). Walckner further noted that the second-lowest divorce rate was found among adult children whose parents divorced, but had a low conflict relationship. The lowest rate of divorce was found among the adult children whose parents remained married and had a low conflict relationship. If it was the only divorce that harmed children, instead of the level of conflict between parents, then the rate of low conflict parents who divorce should produce higher rates of adult child divorce than the high conflict parents who stayed together (Walckner, 2011:15). From the research findings, it could be deduced that children learn by observing the behaviors of their parents, and they grow up to model the conflict style of their parents, hence, marital conflict is a factor in divorce. Children who observe high amounts of parental conflict, especially when the conflict is not resolved, develop poor communication and conflict resolution skills themselves, resulting in a higher likelihood that their future marriages will fail.

According to Davies (2006:16), witnessing high levels of destructive conflict between parents has been associated with greater child distress and negative thoughts in response to conflict. In research conducted at the University of Rochester and University of Notre Dame Davies and his colleagues concluded that when children observe hostility, anger, and stonewalling between their parents, they react with significant distress. Davies has earlier shown that witnessing hostile and aggressive fighting between parents increases cardiac stress in children, similar to adults, and significantly increases the levels of cortisol in their bodies. In a study conducted in 2002 at the University of Notre Dame, they found that children react similarly to verbal and nonverbal forms of expression during marital conflict. Thus, the same stress reaction for hearing their parents yell at each other, be contemptuous with each other or call each other names appears to affect children in the same way as rolling eyes, hearing an exasperated sigh, avoiding their partner, and using intimidation e.g. pointing a finger at their partner or glaring at them, etc. (Mysahana, 2010:3).

Contrary to popular belief, children who grow up witnessing such aggression between their parents do not become accustomed to this fighting but instead become more sensitive to it. This means that the slightest hint of aggression or hostility sparks a sharp increase in cortisol levels and cardiac stress in these children. Mysahana (2010:3) added that children who are exposed to chronic stress such as repeated, unresolved marital conflict exhibit symptoms that parents can see. Infants tend to cry more than usual and have more feeding problems than before. Sometimes infants can have a sharp change in their sleeping patterns as well. Post-potty trained young children may regress to a loss of bowel control and may also cry more than usual.

Davies (2002:16) observed that children may complain of repeated nightmares and also several physical symptoms without an underlying illness, such as unexplained stomachaches or headaches. They may also engage in aggressive behavior such as picking fights with other children, using physical force with classmates (even if physical force is not used in the home), throwing objects, and having trouble following instructions or listening to authority. Some children may become quieter than they used to and withdraw from social interactions or even freeze in social situations. Besides, children can become depressed, express excessive worrying, throw more tantrums, and/or become obsessively interested in routines, objects, food, and anticipation of “what comes next”.

Buehler, Krishna Kumar, Anthony, Tittsworth, & Stone (1994:97) argued that children witnessing unhealthy communication patterns between their parents grow up with a misunderstanding of what a healthy relationship looks like. They are very likely to repeat the same mistakes they grew up watching in their adult relationships and continue the pattern of teaching their children unhealthy communication styles as well. An increase in self-awareness can help stop this cycle.

Researchers have also demonstrated a link between marital conflict and child behavior problems. The type, frequency, and intensity of marital conflict and the perceptions of children are all important factors that help shape children’s reactions to conflict between their parents. Research indicates that marital conflict is related to children’s cognitive and affective functioning (Cummings, Goeke-Morey, & Paap, 2004:191-202). According to Grych and Fincham (1990:267-290), children’s internal processing of marital conflict involves two steps:

  1. Children recognize that there is some sort of disruption and respond emotionally to it, and
  2. Children attribute meaning, understanding, causality, and responsibility for the conflict. Children then develop responses to the conflict and learn by trial and error the most effective means of coping.

Grych and Fincham argued that there are distal and proximal factors that influence the cognitive and affective processing of the conflict. Distal factors are relatively stable qualities such as gender, temperament, and previous experience with marital conflict. Proximal factors include expectations of the conflict and parent mood.

Plomin and Daniels (1987:1-16) found that after controlling for genetic similarities, siblings vary drastically in their reactions to marital discord. Turkheimer and Waldron (2000:78-108) differentiated between the observed environment and the effective environment. The observed environment refers to the observable and measurable environment in which the children live and is separated into aspects that are unique to each child and aspects that are shared across siblings. An effective environment is the differences between siblings that cannot be measured directly, such as behavior and personality. Factors that might explain individual differences in the development of behavior problems in the face of marital conflict are attachment orientation, birth order, early childhood experiences, and different environments (Plomin and Daniel, 1987: 1-16).

Evidence indicates that different types of marital conflict are associated with increased behavior problems in children, especially internalizing and externalizing behaviors (El Sheikh & Elmore-Staton, 2004: 631-648). El Sheikh & Elmore-Staton (2004: 631-648), observed that negative conflict behaviors are maladaptive means of solving marital disputes, such as yelling, name-calling, demeaning comments, and physical aggression. Many researchers have hypothesized that it is the aggressive nature of fighting that affects children, whereas a calmer, more productive means of working out disagreements may conversely have a positive effect on children. Martin and Clements (2002:231-244) in El-Sheikh and Elmore-Staton (2004: 631-648) found that children who witness inter-parental aggression react more strongly and in more negative ways than children who do not witness violent interactions between parents. Conversely, if parents engage in positive conflict behaviors (e.g., compromising, calm debates, exhibiting love despite differences in opinion), children are not as likely to exhibit externalizing behavior problems (El Sheikh & Elmore-Staton, 2004:638). Moreover, externalizing behaviors are more likely if a parent shows overt hostility and anger; whereas, internalizing behaviors are more likely if the parent demonstrates avoidance and withdrawal.

Jenkins and Smith (1991:793-810) identified three different dimensions of disharmony that could negatively affect children’s behaviors. First, overt parental conflict may be distressing and encourage similar behavior in the children. Second, covert parental conflict (i.e., disharmony that distorts family relationships) could impair children’s adjustment. Finally, marital discord could affect the way parents interact with their children, thus encouraging each parent to behave differently toward the children, which was termed parental discrepancy in child-rearing. Webster-Stratton and Hammond (1999:917-927) in Cummings, et al (2004) found that critical parenting and low emotional responsivity of parents were strongly predictive of child conduct problems and thought to stem from the marital conflict. Cummings, et al (2004:191-202) also studied three aspects of marital conflict: conflict tactics (constructive versus destructive); parental emotions (positive versus negative); and conflict topics (child, marital, social, and work). Cummings et al. found that marital aggression increased aggression in children, especially when parents’ tactics and emotions were negative and the children were the object of the argument. In a longitudinal study over three years, Conners, Sitarenios, Parker & Epstein (1998:257-268) found that marital conflict predicted an increase in adolescent behavior problems, and that adolescent’s externalizing behavior predicted a more negative rating of the marital relationship by fathers. These findings do not indicate a clear causal relationship but do lead one to believe that the interaction between marital conflict and children’s behavior problems is significant.

The conflict between parents is understood to affect the dynamic of the entire family. Disagreement in marriages will inevitably arise, but it is the way the parents choose to respond to the discord that can create a positive or negative impact on the child. Research has characterized the negative marital conflict as comprised of five factors: intensity, frequency, consistency, content, and resolution, such that negative marital conflict is consistent over time, characterized by child-centered content, high intensity, frequently occurring, and lacking in a visible resolution to the child. The negative conflict between parents is detrimental to children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development, and can damage their relationship with their parents (Cummings, Goeke-Morey, & Papp, 2004: 191-202).

According to Cummings et al (2004: 191-202), the precise impact of marital conflict, however, varies based on the developmental stage and gender of the child. Specifically, research indicates that toddlers who experience negative marital conflict perform worse on emotional identification tasks, and are less emotionally connected to their mother (Raver, 2014:1-4). By contrast, early school-aged children i.e., between the ages of four and eight often exhibit social delays as a result of exposure to negative marital conflict (El-Sheikh & Whitson, 2006:30-35). Although some research has documented the developmental effects of negative marital conflict on toddlers and school-aged children, the majority of research focuses on effects during adolescence. As with younger children, adolescents who are exposed to negative marital conflict display detriments to their social, emotional, and cognitive development. El-Sheikh & Whitson (2006:30-31), disclosed that adolescence is a time of intense physical, social, and emotional changes, making it imperative for researchers and interventionists alike to explore the particular influence of negative marital conflict on youth during this developmental stage. We shall further explore the effects of marital conflict on adolescents (senior secondary school age), in terms of social, emotional, and cognitive development.

2.4.1   Social effect

Adolescence is characterized by an increased engagement in peer interactions, especially at school, as they begin to create more intimate friendships outside the home. Therefore, exposure to negative marital conflict during this developmental stage has negative implications for an adolescent’s social interactions (Cummings et al., 2004:200). More particularly, Cummings et al., (2004) identified that adolescents exposed to marital conflict have significantly lower conflict resolution skills and higher aggressive responses. Adolescents in high-marital conflict homes witness their parents, two people who are understood to care deeply for one another, arguing over a variety of subjects, and consequently may internalize these skills and begin to utilize them in their own lives (Cummings et al., 2004: 191-202). According to Zimet & Jacob (2001:319-335), some poor conflict resolution skills include ineffective communication, inability to compromise, and difficulty with self-regulation. These learned detrimental conflict resolution skills can be understood as related to the aspect of negative marital conflict where the adolescent is unaware of the resolution to the conflict.

Zimet & Jacob (2001) and Cummings et al., (2004) independently observed that adolescents who are exposed to negative marital conflict also tend to display more adverse parent-child relationships related to their lack of productive social skills. Adolescents frequently report a nervousness or inability to gauge their parent’s mood and how they may respond in a given situation, which affects their likelihood to approach their parent (Zimet & Jacob, 2001:319). The uncertainty in perceiving the parents’ moods causes the adolescent to be more cautious in contacting and interacting with them as he or she worries about the consequences of upsetting or angering them (Zimet & Jacob, 2001:319). The lack of predictability in regards to how the parent may respond to the adolescent becomes discouraging and daunting for many adolescents which have been found to relate to withdrawal of the adolescence and less frequent parent-child interactions. Therefore, marital conflict has complex and diverse effects on adolescent’s social development.  

2.4.2   Emotional effect

Beyond social adversities, adolescents in homes saturated with marital conflict experiences challenges in adaptive emotionality, including increases in feelings of aloneness, anxiety, depression, and stress (Cummings et al., 2004; El-Sheikh & Whitson, 2006; Fincham et al., 1994; Kelly, 2000). Raver (2014:3) revealed a positive relationship between levels of conflict within the home and adolescents’ increased sadness and feelings of loneliness. As the conflict escalates, adolescents frequently isolate themselves physically and emotionally, to escape the negativity within their homes. As adolescents isolate themselves, they often begin to harbor a feeling of responsibility for the conflict. The feeling of responsibility can overwhelm the child and cause him/her to respond by further isolating him/herself (Cummings et al., 2004). The combination of isolation and feelings of responsibility for the conflict makes it increasingly hard for them to cope with not only the conflict but also everyday stressors that they experience at school and social gatherings (Cummings et al., 2004: 191-202).

Kelly, (2000) discovered that the feelings of responsibility and involvement in the conflict relate to an increased risk for developing anxiety and depression. Raver, (2014:2) supported the observation by opining that as an adolescent becomes emotionally involved with the conflict, they begin to internalize much of the disagreement, responding to the conflict as if they were truly part of it. Kelly (2000:963-73) disclosed that this immense level of investment when correlated to the adolescents’ inability to separate themselves from their parent’s marital dispute increases their risk for developing symptoms of anxiety and depression (Cummings et al., 2004; Raver, 2014).

In addition to this, Kelly, (2000) argued that adolescents who are emotionally situated in their parent’s marital conflict often have a distorted view of the dispute as they begin to side with one parent over another not fully understanding the complexities of the disagreement. As adolescents think more about the conflict they tend to misconstrue the situation further, creating an inaccurate depiction of the conflict (Kelly, 2000:971). This misconception is often stressful and anxiety-provoking, as the child is unaware of where the “truth” lies within the disagreement. Moreover, the way adolescents perceive the conflict relates to whether they can adaptively cope in other stressful situations as well. This suggests that the more an adolescent is misinterpreting the conflict, the higher level of stress they experience, and the worse they are at coping with those stressors. Therefore, it is not only the level of the conflict, which affects the adolescent’s emotional regulation but how they experience the conflict as well that matters in terms of emotional development (Kelly, 2000).

2.4.3   Cognitive effect

Beyond the social and emotional adversities that adolescents experience, negative marital conflict is also associated with a decrease in cognitive performance, namely, academic functioning (Grych, Seid & Fincham, 1992; Harold, Aitken, & Shelton, 2007). According to Jenkins and Smith (1991:794), adolescence is characterized by both an increase in personal independence and responsibility and a decrease in parental monitoring. However, for adolescents of high-conflict homes, parental monitoring may decrease rapidly and excessively, as parents are absorbed with the conflict. As a result, unrealistic expectations, such as preparing meals for younger siblings, getting themselves and their siblings to and from school, or even mediating conflict between the parents, may be placed upon the adolescents. These unattainable responsibilities and expectations of the youth within the home have been associated with lower academic achievement (Garber & Dodge, 1991; Harold et al., 2007; Jenkins & Smith, 1991; Kelly, 2000). According to these researches, the decrease in academic achievement results from the adolescents’ preoccupation with the home conflict, challenging their ability to focus on their schoolwork.

Interestingly, Grych et al., (1992: 558-572) indicates that there may be a relation between an adolescent’s preoccupation with the home conflict and their cognitive abilities. Grych et al., (1992) found overt conflict to be better for youth, as there is little left to the imagination, while they noted that in situations where the conflict is more covert, adolescents often spend a lot of time thinking up what is happening and their cognitive functioning is negatively affected by this action. When conflicts are not discussed or actively hidden from the child, it becomes a taboo topic where the adolescent wants to know what is going on so they spend meaningful time throughout their day thinking about what the conflict, oftentimes fabricating the situation (Grych et al., 1992: 558-572). This suggests that it is less about the actual content of the conflict, and more how the conflict is handled concerning the adolescent, that affects their cognition.

2.5     Effect of Marital conflict on the Academic Development of Students

A family is a natural social system, with properties all on its own, one that has evolved a set of rules, is replete with assigned and ascribed roles for its members, has an organized power structure, has developed intricate overt and covert forms of communication and has elaborated ways of negotiating and problem-solving that permit various tasks to be performed effectively (Goldenberg and Goldenberg, 2000:49). In the process of growing up, family members develop individual identities but remain attached to the family group. These family members do not live in isolation, but rather are interdependent on one another – not merely for money, food, and shelter – but also love, affection, companionship, socialization, and other non-tangible needs. A well-functioning family encourages the realization of the individual potential of its members, allowing them freedom for exploration and self–discovery along with protection and instill a sense of security. This may not be the case in a family that experiences conflicts.

According to Grugni (2004:14), parents who have too many children and who are engrossed in the material problems of a large family are likely to neglect them; this will affect their growth negatively. The birth of a child means that the parent’s attention, especially the mother’s, will be shifted towards the new life. Children are supposed to bring parents together because they provide them with a common object for their love and concern. However, in some cases, they become a barrier between the parents. Parents need to assume responsibility for their children’s eternal destiny, educate them, prepare them for life, and guide them in the right way. This cannot happen if there is no harmony in the family. Parents also need to recognize fully their duties towards God, their family, and society. Parents are equally responsible for the task of forming the child. Parent’s presence in children’s lives is of vital importance. Children need the influence of both parents to shape their personalities in a balanced way. Bringing up children is primarily the role of parents, however, when there is conflict in the family, these roles are shattered bringing adverse developmental effects on the children.

Kiura (1999:72) says that a child’s attitudes, standards, and values will slowly be formed by what he learns from his or her parent thus parents should lead by example. Parents should find time to listen to their children’s problems and joys. Kiura (1999) also indicated that when children see that their parents love each other, they are assured that their parents love them. He also asserted that parents should always tell their children the reason why they have to beat them and praise their children more often than they punish them. Researchers have found interdependence between depressed persons and their social contexts. This is especially true in the case of a parent’s depression and children’s adjustment. Marital discord and stress might precede, precipitate, or co-occur with maternal depression. In such instances, it may be marital turmoil that is the key factor that contributes to children’s adjustment problems. When there are problems in the home, parents hardly cater to their children, let alone think about their educational development.

Ezeomah, Akpan, and Oyetunde (1999:19) believed that early childhood education is important because it inculcates the right type of values, norms, attitudes, skills, etc in children. They emphasized that the behavior of the child later in life is determined by this level of education. Because of the importance of educational development at this stage in life, Nnodium (2001:20-26) affirmed that marital conflict put children at risk, thereby laying a devastating base for children’s maladjustment at the secondary school stage, and influencing their educational and social development.

Apart from the home, which serves as the first source of child’s socialization, the school serves as the secondary source of socialization, and at this level, the child’s interaction with the teacher becomes prominent and the role of the teacher as it relates to the child’s educational and social development becomes important. Since the children are relatively young and need guidance, the perception of the teachers at the secondary school level on the causes and effects of marital conflict, as well as suggesting ways in improving the educational and social development of the child becomes necessary and of utmost importance. Moji, Ijoyah, and Ijoyah (2015:101-106) found that the deprivation of instructional materials was among the major causes of poor academic development of students as were perceived by teachers. In order of ranking, they found that it was the most serious issue affecting the educational and social development of students as a result of marital conflict. They however showed that love followed by encouragement was perceived by teachers to be the major ways in improving the educational and social development of pupils from conflict-ridden homes.

Researchers have provided evidence to show that stress affects the development of the body’s stress response systems that help regulate attention, and that how these systems work is tied to the development of the cognitive ability of a child. Hinnant, El-Sheikh, Keiley, and Buckhalt (2013:10) in a study of 251 children from a variety of backgrounds who lived in two-parent homes with varying exposures of marital conflict when they were 8, 9, and 10 provided information on the frequency, intensity, and lack of resolution of conflicts between their parents. The study gauged how children’s stress response system functioned by measuring Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia (RSA), an index of activity in the parasympathetic branch of the body’s stress response system. RSA has been linked to the ability to regulate attention and emotion. The research also measured children’s ability to rapidly solve problems and quickly see patterns in new information at ages 8, 9, and 10. The results of the research found that children who witnessed more marital conflict at age 8 showed less adaptive RSA reactivity at 9, but this was true only for children who had lower resting RSA. Besides, children with lower baseline RSA whose stress response systems were also less adaptive developed mental and intellectual ability more slowly.

Grych and Fincham (1990:570-572) evaluated the link between marital conflict and child maladjustment and suggested directions for future research on processes that may account for the association. According to them, the impact of marital conflict is mediated by children’s understanding of the conflict, which is shaped by contextual, cognitive, and developmental factors. They concluded that marital discord is associated with many indexes of maladjustment in children, including aggression, conduct disorders, and anxiety which affects the children’s intellectual and educational development. Their research on the effect of divorce on children similarly indicates that the conflict associated with divorce, rather than the breakup of the family, is primarily responsible for many of the problems experienced by the child during the school age.

Hinnant et al (2013:6-10) suggests that it is possible that marital conflict more directly affects academic performance by disrupting children’s study schedules and opportunities to solidify crystallized intelligence while it may affect fluid intelligence indirectly through physiological systems responsible for the regulation of attention and problem-solving. Kitzmann, Gaylord, Holt, & Kenny (2003:339-352) illustrated that marital conflict encompasses verbal and physical aggression between partners and is a familial stressor that has well-established links to poor child outcomes. Davies, Sturge-Apple, Cicchetti, & Cummings (2008:1693-1706) showed that parental marital conflict is linked with reactivity to stress in multiple physiological systems; and to cognitive functioning and development (Ghazarian & Buehler, 2010:23-35).

Studies in cognitive skills, reading scores, and level of school attendance have reported that parental conflict is detrimental to the life chances of those children involved in the process. Kim (2011:483-511), found children of divorce to be more likely to lag in cognitive skills indexed by math and reading test scores than children of intact families from the in-divorce stage onward. Also, marital conflict, especially, leading to divorce tended to enhance the risk of high school dropout and lower the likelihood of progression to college (Astone & McLanahan, 1994:575). Children of marital discord appear to go through a spell of emotional disruption more frequently than their counterparts. Using the National Child Development Study, Cherlin, Chase-Landsdale, and McRae (1998:239) showed that children of parental conflict were in worse mental health compared to children of intact families even after taking various selection factors into account.

From the foregoing, we observe that children from marital conflict home tend to experience stress, anxiety, depression, etc which affect their cognitive development and intellectual capacity. This in turn affects their ability to cope in school leading to low scores in reading and arithmetic, skill development, and overall educational development. In extreme cases, it may lead to drop out in school and/or limit such students from going further in academic pursuit.

2.6     Effect of Marital Conflict on Academic Performance of Students

The family is viewed as a primary source for adolescent’s self-efficacy and well-being. Self-efficacy has been shown to greatly influence adolescent academic performance (Parsa, Yaacob, Redzuanb, Parsa & Parsa, 2014:241). A study by Sadock and Sadock, (2003:13-20) has shown that family social support has harmed adolescent depression and a direct correlation with adolescent social self-efficacy. Canary and Canary (2013:34) suggest that marital conflict affects children’s self-efficacy for conflict management and believes that it can control turbulent situations. Individuals with high self-efficacy have more positive strategies and tactics for managing conflict than those who have low self-efficacy beliefs.

Marital conflict has also been found by many researchers to have a direct effect on the academic performance of students. Roseby and Deutsch (1985:55-60), report that deterioration in school performance and behavior are among the most consistently reported outcomes associated with separation and divorce. School is an integral part of children’s environment. Family variables of status, stability, and the provision of role models affect children’s academic and social behavior at school. Shinn (1978:295-324) reports that results in divorce-related research are complicated by the finding that children who come from single-parent families lower their expectations of achievement at school. These children exhibit various learning difficulties, such as inability to concentrate, short attention span, and anxiety about learning (Wodarski, 1982:310-319). The large-scale study conducted by the National Association of Elementary and Secondary School Principals and the Kettering Foundation (Zakariya, 1982:34-37) reported a disproportionately high number of children from single-parent families in low achievement groups and a low proportion of these children in high achievement groups. Global school criteria such as grade point average, attendance, tardiness, suspension, student mobility, and referrals for behavioral problems of single-parent children were found to be more remarkable than those for children of intact homes.

Mundek (1980:119-129) reported similar results; adolescent students from recently divorced families earned significantly lower grade point averages, more demerits, and were absent significantly more often than adolescents whose families remained intact. Blanchard and Biller (1971:301) found that the academic performance of high father present groups was superior compared to boys from situations of low father availability. Following a literature review on the effects of the single-parent family on the academic achievement of children from such households, Dawson (1984:3-12) cites that children from one-parent families show poorer socio-emotional development and lower academic achievement. Furthermore, students from intact households have higher reading comprehension than do students from homes of conflict and divorce. Similarly, a study conducted in a Health Examination Survey 1963-1965 (Svanum, Bringle, and McLaughlin, 1982:136-143) reported that scores on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) and the Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT) were significantly depressed for father-absent children compared with father-present children. These results occurred only when socioeconomic status (SES) and divorce were not controlled. Guidubaldi, Perry, Cleminshaw & McCouglin (1983:1-23) conducted a nationwide study where the SES factor was controlled and similar results were found. Data based on 341 children from divorced families and 348 children from intact families, revealed that within the divorced family group, boys scored lower on social and academic adjustment scores, performed more poorly on classroom behavior ratings, were absent more frequently, had lower Full-Scale IQ’s and lower WRAT reading and spelling scores. Also, grades in reading and math were lower, and these children were more likely to repeat a grade than children from intact families.

As noted in an earlier section, learning constitutes one of the central developmental tasks of children. Wallerstein & Kelly (1981:45-47) suggest that life stresses such as parental separation may impose temporary interruption in the learning process. This, in turn, may lead to significant academic problems if the process is not resumed within a reasonable time frame and an adaptational environment. Receptivity to learning may be compromised by emotional distress. Ability to concentrate, willingness to experiment with new concepts and overall attitude toward school may all be altered negatively.

School adjustment has been constructed historically in terms of children’s academic progress or achievement (Birch & Ladd, 2007:437-58). This implies the process of adapting to the role of being a student and to various aspects of the school environment. Also, an adjustment involves not only children’s progress and achievement but also their attitudes toward school, anxieties, loneliness, social support, and academic motivation (Reher, 2008:203). This is because the interpersonal relationship is likely to affect children’s academic motivation. Connell and Wellborn (2014:23) contend that involvement or the quality of a student’s relationship with the parents is a powerful motivator for an academic adjustment. Ryan and Powelson (2010:104) note that school learning can be for children who are from unstable homes, as they lack the basic motivation needed from both parents to perform brilliantly in school. Some of the factors influencing marital instability include; parental socio-economic status, educational level, gender, and educational class level of the children (Omoniyi-Oyafunke, Falola & Salau, 2014:68-77).

Children’s educational influence is highly connected to their socio-economic background (Evans, Harkness & Oritz, 2004; Akanbi, 2014:59-64). Along with children’s personal ability with school work, given the unstable home environment, the economic status of their parents plays a huge role in their schooling functioning. Unstable families sometimes experience insufficient income as the available parent may have to work longer hours to earn more income (Sclafani, 2008:27). This leaves less time for them to spend overseeing their children’s learning process. There is also, typically, more conflict in homes of lower-income parents because there is more tension caused by stress within the family. Abu and Kolawale (2012:47) argue that parents who expressed more conflict at home fail to provide regular supervision for their children, resulting in poorer school adjustment and performance. It is not always true that lower-income parents are neglectful parents, but one can slip into that label given some extreme pressure.

Not only are children’s education influenced by parental socio-economic context, Sarigiani (2008:101) indicates that parental educational level is significantly related to the learning adjustment of children from volatile home type, in times of marital instability. Research shows that educated parents have a much easier time preparing their children for school compared to parents with little or no educational background, even during times of marital instability (Abane, 2003:120). The education that children receive is very much dependent on the education that their parents received, as the literacy of the parents with unstable marriages likely affect the education of their children (Reher, 2008:203). The role of gender in the course of daily parent-child interaction and children’s academic adjustment has received little attention in the Nigerian context. Nonetheless, Lesmin and Sarker (2008:97) found out that there is a differential vulnerability for boys and girls in schooling adjustment throughout academic pursuit due to marital instability. Boys exhibited more externalizing problems and less competence than girls during pre-adolescence (Akanbi, 2014:59-64). While, Howell, Portes, and Brown (2007:8) found out that adolescent boys exhibit more problems in schooling adjustment than girls at the time of parental divorce. Majoribanks (2003:98-119) indicates that both male and female adolescents from divorced families exhibit higher rates of conduct disorder, which affect their academic.

Students’ schooling level or class, which can either, be; primary, secondary, or tertiary has also been correlated with children’s school adjustment due to parental marital instability. Research posits that student’s schooling level or their class level has a remarkable effect on them when faced with family instability (Omoniyi-Oyafunke et al., 2014). Ezennay (2006:46) indicates that children that are in lower classes tend to have more adjustment problem with their academics when faced with family instability. This could be because such children are very young and are close to their parents and with marital disharmony or instability, they experience a crisis, particularly when not nurtured by their mother. Akanbi (2014) asserts that children in higher classes, when their parents experience martial instability, specifically the senior secondary classes face greater adjustment problems, given that they are in their adolescent stage, as such, they experience more tolerance problems.

Findings from the South Wales Family Study suggest that the quality of relations between parents not only affects children’s long-term emotional and behavioral development but also affects their long-term academic achievement.  According to Dr. Gordon Harold, of the University’s School of Psychology, the study shows what many have long suspected – family factors exert a real influence on children’s emotional and behavioral problems, as well as their academic achievement.  In particular, children living in a family environment marked by frequent, intense, and poorly resolved conflicts between parents are at greater risk for deficits in academic achievement than children living in more positive family environments (Cardiff University, 2005).

Ejide (2006:1-11) explained that the faulty parenting style results in aggressiveness and delinquency, and such adolescents perform poorly academically. He added that the learning problem evident in their difficulty in reading, lack of appropriate social skills, and inability to form stable relationships place them at risk of dropping out of school. This aggressiveness causes delinquency and conflict with parents. It could also deepen in the future leading to difficulty in holding jobs and involvement in criminal behavior (Robin in Ejide, 2006). It will be necessary therefore for this research to investigate the parenting styles and the relationship between parents and adolescents as to how it influences the academic achievement of adolescents in the geographical area of this study for counseling purposes.

Maduakonam in Ezeike (1998:72-76), believed that poor parental upbringing, the effect of family background, and absence of proper guidance are the cause of maladaptive behavior. Ezeike added that such students may exhibit antisocial behaviors like aggression, truancy, unruliness amongst others. To the National Mental Health Information Centre (2008), children whose parents are highly involved with them in a positive way do better in school. For the center, such adolescents demonstrate better psychological well-being, lower level of delinquencies, and ultimately attain a higher level of education with economic self-sufficiency. This means parenting style influences the relationship between parents and adolescents as well as the academic achievement of the adolescent.

2.7     Relationship between Marital conflict and Examination Malpractice

Previous studies attest to the alarming rate of academic dishonesty at all levels of education in developed and developing societies, however, studies on the relationship between marital conflict and examination malpractice were not found during this review.

An examination is important in every system of education. It is a means of testing the students’ level of knowledge and understanding of the studied curriculum. However, there have been instances of examination malpractices in the Nigerian school system at virtually all levels of education. Owuamanam (2005:1-5:222) identified examination malpractices include misrepresentation of identity or impersonation, cheating, theft of student’s work, tampering with the works of others, bringing prepared answers to the examination hall, unethical use of academic resources, fabrication of results, and showing disregard to academic regulations. According to Omonijo, Oludayo, Uche, and Rotimi (2014) identified nine (9) categories of academic dishonesty to include the use of: calculator, mobile phone, iPod, copying from others, copying form microchips, exchanging answer scripts, buying of question papers, leakage of examination questions and forging of marks.

Examination malpractices experienced at all levels of education in the country is a cause for concern as it spells doom for the country’s educational sector and her future. If such practices are not checked, the certificates issued by our educational institutes will be regarded as insignificant in the international community. Though students’ have been blamed to be the cause of this scenario due to their laziness to read, over-dwelling on social media, and other unnecessary activities, Moses and Oshikoya (2012:17-18), placed the blame on the parents for being so much involved with the business activities that they fail to perform some of their duties to their children, like checking their homework to see how well the child is faring and how much effort still needs to be put in by the child. According to them, Parents are meant to help their children develop a good reading habit right from childhood so that when he grows, he will not depart from it. Dr. Kehinde Ayoola of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, on his own blamed the parents for increasing the rate of examination malpractices in the country. He says that students misuse their leisure time with a distraction like play stations, Facebook, among others leaving their parents, who are desperate for their ward to be admitted into institutions of higher learning no choice but to engage in the act (Eyoh, 2013:16). Otokunefor (2011:1-22) states that most secondary school students, who transit into higher institutions of learning in Nigeria have been negatively influenced, and therefore call for a renewed mindset of these students.

Researchers have advanced many reasons for the escalation of examination malpractices and academic dishonesty in the country. Prominent among them is the lack of seriousness of the elite class in reducing the scourge to the barest minimum. Omonijo & Fadugba, (2011:297), using the data of 545 respondents examined reasons why the Nigerian government failed to implement all laws on examination misconduct. The findings of their survey pointed to the involvement of the children of government functionaries, which represented the absolute majority of the sample (24. 95%). This was followed by a lack of seriousness of the government officials’ with10.01%, while 8.99% of other respondents associated it with the moral problem of government functionaries. This brings to bear the problem of leadership in Nigeria.

Improper child upbringing in many homes in Nigeria today is another cogent contributing factor. Adequate training given to children at home in the past does not exist in Nigeria anymore, which explains why antisocial behaviors are spreading at alarming proportions (Rotimi, Omonijo & Uche, 2014:486). Specifically, Animasahun (2014:592) attributes this problem to marital conflict among couples, broken homes, and single parenthood. In recent times, most children are not trained due to the factors raised by these scholars. In such a situation, there is every tendency for children to develop antisocial behaviors. Such children are many in Nigeria today and they constitute a nuisance to the peace and tranquility of the academic society. In other words, lack of parental involvement in children’s training can have long-lasting negative effects on them.

Children who do not have a close relationship with their parents are also at risk of teen pregnancy, more likely to drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes, and more likely to live a sedentary life (Drinkworth, 2014:2-3). They are also more likely to withdraw from school or suffer from depression and later seek every means to obtain a school leaving certificate. Scholars such as Brimble and Stevenson-Clarke, (2005:33) believe that parental indiscipline and abuse of wealth have been sustaining the phenomenon of academic dishonesty. Many parents as noted above are bad examples to their children. Dwelling on Drinkworth, (2014) unhealthful behaviors of parents has higher negative effects on their children. According to this author, a child of an alcoholic parent is four times more likely to become an alcoholic. Most parents believe that money can be used to influence success for their children, even if it involves bribery (Gallegos 2014:3), which confirms the submission of Omonijo & Fadugba, (2011:297) on this discourse.

While marital conflict is a normal and healthy part of a relationship when the conflict becomes aggressive or hostile both adults and children in the family hurt from it. Witnessing marital conflict that is resolved with respect, warmth and empathy has shown to have a very positive effect on children learning how to manage stress healthily and teaching them how to resolve conflict healthily. The literature reviewed so far show that literature is absent from the relationship between marital conflict and examination malpractice. In pursuit of this research, we shall hypothetically analyze the existence of this correlation using observed data.

2.8     Empirical Studies

Various studies have been conducted by researchers on the effects of marital conflict on the academic development of children. Most researchers provided evidence to show that stress affects the development of the body’s stress response systems which regulates attention. Also, how the body responds to stress is tied to the development of the cognitive ability of a child.

In a study conducted by Hinnant, El-Sheikh, Keiley, and Buckhalt (2013:10-30), 251 children from different backgrounds who lived in two-parent homes with varying exposures to the marital conflict were used to find the effects of marital conflict on children’s stress response system. Children of ages 8, 9, and 10 provided information on the frequency, intensity, and lack of resolution of conflicts between their parents. The study gauged how children’s stress response system functioned by measuring Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia (RSA), an index of activity in the parasympathetic branch of the body’s stress response system. The results of the research found that children who witnessed more marital conflict at age 8 showed less adaptive RSA reactivity at 9, but this was true only for children who had lower resting RSA. Also, children with lower baseline RSA whose stress response systems were also less adaptive developed mental and intellectual ability more slowly.

Grych and Fincham (1990:267-290) conducted a study to evaluate the link between marital conflict and child maladjustment and to suggest directions for future research on processes that may account for the association. According to them, the impact of marital conflict is mediated by children’s understanding of the conflict, which is shaped by contextual, cognitive, and developmental factors. They concluded that marital conflict is associated with aggression, conduct disorders, and anxiety which affects the children’s intellectual and educational development. In another study on the effect of divorce on children, Grych and Fincham (1990) found that the conflict associated with divorce, rather than the breakup of the family, is primarily responsible for many of the problems experienced by the child during the school age.

Another study shows that marital conflict has a direct effect on academic performance (Hinnant et al., 2013). According to the study, marital conflict affects academic performance by disrupting children’s study schedules and opportunities to solidify crystallized intelligence while it may affect fluid intelligence indirectly through physiological systems responsible for the regulation of attention and problem-solving. Studies have shown that marital conflict is linked with reactivity to stress in multiple physiological systems; and to cognitive functioning and development (Davies, Sturge-Apple, Cicchetti, & Cummings, 2008; Ghazarian & Buehler, 2010:23-35).

Different studies on the effects of marital conflict on cognitive skills, reading scores, and level of school attendance reported that conflict is detrimental for the life chances of those children involved in the process. Kim (2011:511), found that children of divorce are more likely to lag in cognitive skills indexed by math and reading test scores than children of intact families. Astone and McLanahan (1994:575), found that marital conflict, especially those leading to divorce, enhances the risk of high school dropout and lowers the likelihood of progression to college. Cherlin, Chase-Landsdale, and McRae (1998:239) showed that children of marital discord appear to go through a spell of emotional disruption more frequently than their counterparts. Using the National Child Development Study, they showed that children of parental conflict were in worse mental health compared to children of intact families even after taking various selection factors into account.

A study conducted by Blanchard and Biller (1971:301) found that the academic performance of high father present groups was superior compared to boys from situations of low father availability. Similarly, a study conducted in a Health Examination Survey 1963-1965 reported that scores on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) and the Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT) were significantly depressed for father-absent children compared with father-present children. These results occurred only when socioeconomic status (SES) and divorce were not controlled (Svanum, Bringle, and McLaughlin, 1982:136). Guidubaldi, Perry, Cleminshaw & McCouglin (1983) conducted a nationwide study where the SES factor was controlled and similar results were found. Data based on 341 children from divorced families and 348 children from intact families, revealed that within the divorced family group, boys scored lower on social and academic adjustment scores, performed more poorly on classroom behavior ratings, were absent more frequently, had lower Full-Scale IQ’s and lower WRAT reading and spelling scores. Besides, grades in reading and math were lower, and these children were more likely to repeat a grade than children from intact families.

Parents’ socio-economic context has been found to affect children’s education. A study conducted by Sarigiani (2008:23) indicates that parental educational level is significantly related to the learning adjustment of children from volatile home types, in times of marital instability. Another study shows that educated parents have a much easier time preparing their children for school compared to parents with little or no educational background, even during times of marital instability (Abane, 2003). Reher (2008), in his study, found that the education that children receive is very much dependent on the education that their parents received, as the literacy of the parents with unstable marriages likely affects the education of their children. Nonetheless, Lesmin and Sarker (2008) found that there is a differential vulnerability for boys and girls in schooling adjustment throughout academic pursuit due to marital instability. Similarly, Akanbi (2014) showed that boys exhibited more externalizing problems and less competence than girls during pre-adolescence. Howell, Portes, and Brown (2007) found that adolescent boys exhibit more problems in schooling adjustment than girls at the time of parental divorce.

Students’ schooling level or class, which can either, be; primary, secondary, or tertiary has also been correlated with children’s school adjustment due to parental marital instability. Research posits that student’s schooling level or their class level has a remarkable effect on them when faced with family instability (Omoniyi-Oyafunke et al., 2014). Ezennay (2006) indicates that children that are in lower classes tend to have more adjustment problem with their academics when faced with family instability. This could be because such children are very young and are close to their parents and with marital disharmony or instability, they experience a crisis, particularly when not nurtured by their mother. Akanbi (2014) asserts that children in higher classes, when their parents experience martial instability, specifically the senior secondary classes face greater adjustment problems, given that they are in their adolescent stage, as such, they experience more tolerance problems.

A study conducted by the South Wales Family found that the quality of relations between parents not only affects children’s long-term emotional and behavioral development but also affects their long-term academic achievement. The study shows what many have long suspected that family factors exert a real influence on children’s emotional and behavioral problems, as well as their academic achievement.  In particular, children living in a family environment marked by frequent, intense, and poorly resolved conflicts between parents are at greater risk for deficits in academic achievement than children living in more positive family environments (Cardiff University, 2005).

2.9     Summary of Literature Review

From the foregoing, we observe that children from marital conflict home tend to experience stress, anxiety, depression, etc which affect their cognitive development and intellectual capacity. This in turn affects their ability to cope in school leading to low scores in reading and arithmetic, skill development, and overall educational development. In extreme cases, it may lead to drop out in school and/or limit such students from going further in academic pursuit.

We have been able to review related literature on the effects of marital conflict on the academic development of students in senior secondary schools. The chapter reviewed the literature on the theoretical framework including the concept of conflict, marital conflict, and theories of marital conflict. The review further discussed the causes of marital conflict and the effects of marital conflicts on children. Also, we reviewed the effects of marital conflicts on the academic performance of students, the relationship between marital conflict and examination malpractice, and empirical studies on the effects of marital conflict on the academic development of students.

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