Building on attachment theory (Bowlby, 1969), Emotional Security Theory (EST, Davies & Cummings, 1994) provides a theoretical and empirical model for evaluating the impact of broader family processes associated with children’s emotional security about family functioning. Theoretical and empirical research over the past 25 years supports the explanatory value of EST is accounting for the effects of family and marital conflict on child adjustment (Cummings & Davies, 2011; Waters & Cummings, 2000). Notably, one of the most important aspects of the family environment for children whose parents are divorcing is the level of parental fighting, and parental fighting is one of the strongest forecasters of children’s adjustment after divorce (Cummings & Davies, 1994). Recent research supporting the significance of emotional insecurity in predicting the long-term adjustment of children in association with marital (e.g., Cummings, George, McCoy, & Davies, 2012) and family conflict (Cummings, Koss, & Davies, 2015) is reviewed. For example, Cummings et al. (2015) reported family conflict was prospectively predictive of symptoms of multiple adjustment problems, including symptoms of depression, anxiety, conduct problems, and peer problems, by elevating adolescent’s emotional insecurity about the family system. In addition, EST is discussed as serving as a conceptual foundation for multiple on-going intervention programs, including evidence that emotional security mediates the impact of interventions for marital and family conflict on child adjustment (e.g., Miller-Graff, Bergman, & Cummings, 2015). The value of EST in extending the utility of secure base notions to multiple additional contexts of child development and goals for intervention for child adjustment in these contexts is briefly considered.
Dr. E. Mark Cummings is the William J. Shaw Center for Children and Families Professor of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame, and previously was the Notre Dame Endowed Chair in Psychology. Dr. Cummings’ work focuses on relations between adaptive and maladaptive family processes and development. He is interested in relations between family and community contexts and children’s development between early childhood and later adolescence, guided by the Emotional Security Theory. A recent direction is the development and testing of prevention programs designed to improve family functioning, especially the quality of interparental and parent-child relationships, and children’s adjustment and well-being in high-risk US samples and international samples of families exposed to community violence. Dr. Cummings has authored several books and monographs and has published over 250 peer-reviewed articles and over 50 book chapters. He has also served on the editorial boards of numerous journals and as a regular and ad hoc reviewer for NIH IRG panels. Dr. Cummings is the Principal Investigator or Co-Principal Investigator of numerous NICHD and NIMH-funded research programs examining prospective, longitudinal relations between conflict, family processes and development in childhood and adolescence. He is an American Psychological Association Fellow and a recipient of Urie Bronfenbrenner Award for Lifetime Contribution to Developmental Psychology in the Service of Science and Society, American Psychological Association, and the Reuben Hill Research and Theory Award, National Council on Family Relations as well as the University of Notre Dame’s James A. Burns, C.S.C., Graduate School Award for Excellence in Graduate Education, and the Research Achievement Award. A recent authored book, with Christine Merrilees, Laura Taylor, and Christina Mondi, is Political Violence, Armed Conflict, and Youth Adjustment: A Developmental Psychopathology Perspective on Research and Intervention.