No matter how healthy a couple’s relationship is, there’s bound to be some controversy here and there. And a few disagreements are usually not a big deal. Adult conversations, in general without children looking at them and refusing to name them, all show children how to resolve disagreements in a healthy way. But more serious conflicts inevitably take their toll on children.
Studies show that parental fighting affects the mental health of their children.
Physical alterations, insults, and tactics such as “silent treatment” are just a few of the toxic interactions parents can have, with the potential to cause some emotional harm. mental health in the long run.
Why is parenting a problem?
There is research that shows that a baby as young as 6 months old can be negatively affected by intense parental arguments.But it’s not just children who are affected by their parents’ fighting. Other studies show that young adults up to the age of 19 may be sensitive to their parents’ marital conflicts.
It turns out that children of all ages, from infancy to early adulthood, are influenced by how their parents choose to handle their differences. Researchers believe that high-conflict marriages affect children’s mental health. Here are some ways that children are affected.
- It can cause insecurity. Fighting undermines a child’s sense of security about family stability. Children who are exposed to a lot of fights may worry about divorce or wonder when their parents’ silent treatment will end. It can make it difficult for them to have a sense of normalcy in the family because fights can be unpredictable.
- It can affect the parent-child relationship. High-conflict situations are also stressful for parents. And a stressed parent may not spend much time with their children. In addition, the quality of the relationship can suffer because it can be difficult for one parent to show warmth and affection when they are angry and upset with the other parent.
- It can create a stressful environment. Eavesdropping on frequent or stressful fights will stress children out. Stress can affect their physical and psychological health and interfere with normal, healthy development.
Long-term mental health effects
In 2012, a study was published in the journal Child’s development examines the effects of parental conflict on children in kindergarten through seventh grade.Participants were part of 235 middle-class families in the midwest and northeastern United States with median incomes between $40,000 and $60,000.
When their children were in kindergarten, the parents were asked about the level of conflict they experienced in the marriage. They were also asked to talk about a difficult topic, such as finance, and the researchers considered how important the partners were to each other.
Seven years later, the researchers followed the families. Both children and parents were asked about their parents’ marital struggles as well as the children’s emotional and behavioral health.
Kindergartners whose parents fight violently and frequently are more likely to have depression, anxiety, and behavioral problems by seventh grade.
Those aren’t the only problems kids can face when their parents are constantly fighting. Here are some of the things that researchers found when looking at the effects that parental fighting can have on children.
Reduced cognitive performance
A 2013 study published in Child’s development found that the stress associated with living in a home full of conflict can reduce children’s cognitive abilities.Researchers found that when parents fight frequently, children have a harder time regulating their attention and emotions.
Their ability to quickly solve problems and quickly see new patterns of information was also compromised. Meanwhile, other studies have found that living in a family with a lot of conflict increases high school dropout rates and poor grades.
Exposure to parental fighting increases the likelihood that children will treat others with hostility. Often children will begin to resolve sibling arguments with the same tactics they have witnessed you employ.
Children may also have difficulty maintaining healthy relationships as they get older if they are used to family discord or they may struggle to identify who they really are. can be trusted in life.
Parental conflict is associated with increased aggression, delinquency and behavior problems in children. In addition, children are more likely to have social problems and have difficulty adjusting to school.
Eating disorders and physical problems
Some studies have linked eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, to high parental dissonance. A child can also suffer physical effects from the fight, such as trouble sleeping, upset stomach or headaches.
Researchers have found that living in a home with high levels of conflict increases rates of smoking, drinking, and marijuana use, compared to a family with low-conflict parents.
Negative outlook on life
Children raised in conflict-ridden homes are more likely to have negative views about their family relationships. They are also more likely to see themselves in a negative way. A 2012 study published in Youth and Adolescent Magazine found that children exposed to parental fighting were also more likely to have low self-esteem.
When fighting becomes problematic
Regardless of your child’s age or whether you’re seeing the effects of conflict in your marriage, watch closely how you argue. Just because your fights aren’t physically harmful doesn’t mean they aren’t harmful to your child. There are a number of tactics that parents use to sabotage children.
Destructive Disagreement Tactics
- Threats of abandonment (such as divorce)
- Any form of aggression (including throwing things)
- Quit or withdraw from the debate
- Capitulation (put in another parent)
So while you might think walking away from an argument and giving your partner the silent treatment for three days isn’t a big deal — it’s a big deal for your kids. Your child sees how you handle disagreements and they learn problem-solving skills, emotional regulation skills, and conflict resolution skills from you.
It is important that you think about the message you are sending your children about loving relationships. If you and your partner treat each other with disrespect, your kids will grow up thinking it’s okay for you to do so – and they’ll probably believe it’s okay to let others treat them badly.
Reduce the effects
Sometimes, a disagreement gets out of hand. One person says something they don’t mean, another parent doesn’t realize that their kids are listening on the other side of the wall.
One or two hits doesn’t mean you’ve irreparably harmed your child. However, you may want to take a few steps to lessen the impact of what they have seen and heard. If your disagreement turns out to be disrespectful, you can take these steps to resolve the situation with your child:
- Discussing the war: While you don’t have to go into the specifics of what you and your partner disagree on, hold a family meeting to say things like, “Dad and I had a meeting. arguing the other night. We don’t have the same opinion about something that’s important to both of us, but it’s wrong for us to fight like that.”
- Reassure the children: Remind them that this is just an argument and not a sign of bigger problems. Assure them that you still love each other and that you won’t divorce (assuming that’s a true statement, of course).
- Wear closed: Make sure your child understands that you are still a strong family. Explain that arguments sometimes happen and people can lose their cool. However, you both love each other, despite your disagreements.
If you believe fighting with your spouse or partner is harming your child’s mental health, consider seeing a therapist.
A therapist can determine if either of you could benefit from individual therapy to learn skills, like anger management or emotional regulation, or whether you should attend counseling. couples to work together to fix their relationship or not.
Are children better off in a two-parent family?
Children often do best in families with two parents. But, it is important for parents to get along with each other. If there are many fights, children may be better off if their parents are separated. Many parents wonder if they should stay together for the sake of their children or just get a divorce. It is clear that divorce can affect children’s psyche.
Also, kids who grow up with single parents often have other problems – like economic problems – and they may not be as good as kids who grow up in two-parent families. And obviously, getting remarried and living in a harmonious family can be complicated for kids, too.
However, living in a conflict-ridden home can be just as stressful — or perhaps even more stressful for children — than when their parents are divorced. When parents get along during and after a divorce, children often don’t experience lasting emotional scars.
So, if you find yourself in a high-conflict relationship, staying together for the kids may not benefit your kids. It’s important to seek help to reduce conflict or change relationships so your child can grow up happier and healthier.
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