Abstract：Objective To investigate the mediating effect of parent-child conflict on paternal phubbing and externalizing behavior problems in children, so as to provide insights into the prevention and interventions of childhood externalizing behavior problems. Methods The fathers of children at ages of 3 to 6 years were sampled from seven kindergartens in Liaoning Province and one kindergartens in Sichuan Province using a convenience sampling method in June 2021. The Generic Scale of Phubbing, the Parent-child Relationship Scale, and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire in Children were employed. The mediating effect of parent-child conflict on paternal phubbing and externalizing behavior problems in children was examined using a structural-equation model and Bootstrap method. Results A total of 583 questionnaires were allocated, and 531 valid questionnaires were recovered, with an effective recovery rate of 91.08%. The fathers had a mean age of (34.86±8.39) years, and 172 fathers had an educational level of bachelor degree and above (32.39%) and 285 had a single child (53.67%). Among paternal phubbing questions, the mean scores of nomophobia, interpersonal conflict, self-isolation and problem acknowledgement dimensions were (3.71±1.53), (2.02±1.18), (2.26±1.29) and (3.07±1.38), respectively, and the mean score of parent-child conflict was (2.25±0.82). Among all childhood externalizing behavior questions, the mean scores of conduct and attention deficits/hyperactivity dimensions were (0.31±0.26) and (0.82±0.46), respectively. Paternal phubbing posed an direct positive effect on childhood externalizing behavior problems (β=0.165, P=0.005), and indirectly affected childhood externalizing behavior problems (β=0.449, P<0.001) via parent-child conflict (β=0.358, P<0.001). The mediating effect of father-child conflict was 0.161 (95%CI: 0.104-0.221), and was contributed 49.39% to the total effect. Conclusions Parent-child conflict plays a partial mediating role in the association between paternal phubbing and childhood externalizing behavior problems. Paternal phubbing may directly affect childhood externalizing behavior problems, and may indirectly affect childhood externalizing behavior problems through the positive effect on parent-child conflict.
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