How Parental Conflict Impacts Children
Updated: Oct 19, 2021
Parental conflict is a natural part of relationships. While some conflict is healthy and can teach children how to work through problems it can also at times become problematic and have a negative impact on children and their behavior. Studies suggest that children as young as 6 months old can be affected negatively by parental dissonance (Morin, 2019).
When conflict is frequent, aggressive, or silent for example it is not uncommon for parents to create alliances within the family which places the children in an uncomfortable situation. What’s more, parents may inadvertently make negative comments about the other parent in the presence of their children thus potentially causing emotional distress and confusion (OurFamilyWizard.com, 2000-2021).
In addition to emotional distress and confusion, children whose parents are in conflict or having difficulties in their relationship may experience anxiety, depression, and shame. Hardie-Williams (2016) explains this is likely due to parental conflict negatively impacting how they parent. For example, time spent with the children may be less frequent, and parents may become more easily frustrated and impatient with their children. On the other hand, when parental conflict is low, the relationship between parent and child tends to be more positive.
Behavioral issues may also arise when parental conflict exists and it can create a variety of behavioral issues. Morin (2019) points out that aggression, conduct problems, and social problems are more common in children whose parents fight often. Parents may seek help for the behavior problems when in actuality it may be in part a result of the negative effects of parental discord.
Ways to Manage Conflict in Front of Children
Sometimes conflict cannot be completely avoided around children. There are healthy ways to communicate during a conflict that can lessen the negative impact on children and also teach them how to resolve conflict in a healthy manner. Below are a few suggestions:
Try to avoid arguing in front of the children
Listen to your partner and take turns talking
Wait until you are alone to talk about problems
Try taking a break if things become too intense and agree to discuss the issue at a later time
Avoid discussing problems in the relationship with children
Show your partner respect in front of the children even if there is a disagreement
While conflict is a natural part of relationships when it becomes too frequent or unhealthy children and the family can be negatively impacted. At BMS Alignment we have therapists who specialize in working with children, adolescents, teens, and parents experiencing problems related to issues within the family. Call today (657) 999-0052 or submit a request online to schedule a consultation.
Dealing with Badmouthing from a Co-Parent. (2000-2021). https://www.ourfamilywizard.com/blog/dealing-badmouthing-co-parent
Hardie-Williams, K. (2016). The Insidious Impact of Parental Conflict on Child Behavior . https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/insidious-impact-of-parental-conflict-on-child-behavior-0601165
Morin, A. (2019). How Parents Fighting Affects a Child's Mental Health. https://www.verywellfamily.com/how-parents-fighting-affects-children-s-mental-health-4158375
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