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Parental Conflicts and Their Impact on Children

Updated on June 13, 2017

Repeated affirmations of solemn intent will not alone suffice in parenting. In fact, these affirmations can never off-set a lack of active efforts to raise children who are healthy, both mentally and physically. Thanks to the increased exposure children of the present-day world have, there are more compelling reasons for parents to work together to raise their kids. Parents should understand the fact that children suffer a lot due to conflicts between them. Detailed researches have also been conducted to find how kids are affected when parents fight with each other and argue incessantly.

It is true that no relationships can exist or thrive without conflicts and disagreements. This is all the more true in the case of couples. So, parents will do well if they remember what William James has said. The quote goes like this: "Whenever you're in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude." This means that if parents behave calmly and approach the differences with their partners positively, they will be able to solve the problems between them more easily and smoothly. Such an approach will show to the children that conflicts can be resolved without resorting to fights. In fact, this approach will impart skills related to conflict resolution also in children.

If parental conflicts are hostile and heated and if they involve raised voices, verbal insults and physical aggression, children are certain to be affected. Similarly, if one parent withdraws from the heated argument and gives what is known as the "silent treatment" to the other partner or if the conflict appears to threaten the very fabric of the family, even then, children may be affected.

Researchers have found that a child even of six months may experience agony when his or her parents fight. Some of the reactions the child may show are fear, sadness, anxiety and anger. There may be health issues as well. Some children may find it difficult to sleep properly. Risks of not being able to focus or succeed in studies may be high in children who are witness to parental conflicts.

A few children may "externalize" the agony they experience by being aggressive and hostile. Non-compliant behaviors may be common in them. Experts point out that most of the anti-social children may have been impacted by parental conflicts. Depression, withdrawal, dysphoria and anxiety may be the effects in children who "internalize" their agony.

Studies also reveal that children who are witness to frequent and aggressive parental conflicts may not be good at social competence and problem solving. Their interpersonal skills may be poor also. Their brain development may take a severe beating. Further, their romantic relationships when they attain adulthood may be negatively impacted as well.

Why do parental conflicts cause these effects?

Parents who are involved in such conflicts can not be good parents, however hard they may try. They may always be aggressive and may engage in threatening, shouting, hitting, and criticizing. This, along with inconsistent behaviors and not paying attention to the needs of their children, are the reasons for these effects.

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