How Parental Arguments Have Lasting Effects On Children

Sameer C
·5-min read

It’s not surprising to learn that children who come from conflicted homes often have mental health issues. The homes would have their own set of issues right from financial hardships, dysfunctional families, to conflict among spouses.

The stigma has largely been that a divorced couple would create more mental health issues for children. However, people often forget that a conflicted home is keeping a child constantly under duress. Family problems as common as they seem, may not seem like a lot. But the negative effects of family problems do hold on to a child’s impressionable mind for longer periods, well into adulthood.

It’s not surprising then that children from conflicted homes have anxiety issues in social interactions, mental illnesses and substance abuse as adults.

Yes, it’s not the same for all children and most do turn their life around. But, that does not mean they’ve not been through phases where they haven’t suffered from the negative effects of family problems.

When Do Parental Arguments Become A Concern?

negative effects of family problems
negative effects of family problems

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It would be ideal for parents to not have arguments at all. However, every household has friction between parents that will result in conflict and disagreement. And yes, children will witness it at one time or the other.

Arguments between parents are normal and something that the child should know about. It is a sign of a healthy house that is willing to hear each other’s opinion.

It also points towards the direction that parents are willing to resolve the conflict and work to find solutions to the problem. The entire experience is a constructive one for the child, who may pick up conflict-resolution skills that they can later apply to their own relationships or similar situations.

However, when parental conflict is heated, hostile, and includes throwing verbal insults and abuses at each other, it is not the ideal situation a child should witness. Situations can lead to cases of domestic violence and even extend to child abuse if it goes unchecked.

What Happens To Children Suffering From Negative Effects Of Family Problems?

negative effects of family problems
negative effects of family problems

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A book published by the UK think-tank One Plus One states that children can show signs of distress when their parents fight. The reactions can include fear, anxiety, and sadness, which leads to difficulty in focussing in school.

  • The children will show their distress in the form of external traits like aggression, hostility, non-compliance, delinquency, and/or vandalism.

  • At the same time, children internalise their distress and suffer from depression, anxiety, withdrawal, and dysphoria.

  • Studies suggest that the course of depression in these children could be more chronic with increased rates of relapse.

  • Moreover, children from conflict households are likely to have poor interpersonal skills, personality development, problem-solving abilities and social competence.

These shortcomings affect their relationships with friends, co-workers and even future partners. Regular conflicts can also cause children to perceive the world negatively and have a very pessimistic view of familial relationships.

How Is The Parent-child Relationship Affected By Parental Conflict?

Parents who cannot find a resolution among themselves are often suffering from the same issues like anxiety, depression, or just pent-up anger. It is often directed at the child for the parent to vent their frustration. Sometimes, it might just be shedding tears in front of your child that will leave a permanent impact.

High-conflict relationships can produce lax and inconsistent parenting. Some parents may not pay attention to their child’s development. Some children will fail to form an attachment with their parents in the long run.

Children can tend to blame themselves for the conflict at home when living in such a hostile environment. They can also find harmful ways to cope with the problems. Research suggests that children experience psychological reactions related to stress that can hamper brain development.

How Negative Effects Of Family Problems Affect Children Differently

negative effects of family problems
negative effects of family problems

Image courtesy: iStock

The effect of parental conflict will be different for children depending on their age, sex and temperament. Every child has his own coping mechanism for a situation and reacts differently to stress. It also makes a difference as to how connected the child is to the other members of the family.

For instance, a household where parents regularly fight will see a strong bond between siblings that helps keep things positive. The child may also share a close relationship with at least one parent, especially in a house that’s seen domestic violence.

One of the many factors affecting a child’s mental health is also the socio-economic position of the home, which could be the root cause of the unrest.

Are Divorced Parents Better Than Conflicting Parents?

The social stigma attached to divorces has made it rather difficult for adults to take one when they aren’t compatible. While taking a divorce is a sign of a flawed marriage, it’s at times necessary for the wellbeing of either individual. This is all the more concerning, once you factor in the effects of a conflicted home on the child and the generation to come.

The previous generation made this mistake of looking down upon divorces, and the perception of it needs to be changed. A “broken” home so to say, may just be far better than a damaged child.

It’s important for children to get the right counselling at a young age when they exhibit such issues. It’s also important to understand that not every house is a perfect one or even ideal for that matter. Creating a safe space for the child to grow and learn is the responsibility of every parent.


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