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Consequences of Parental Conflict on Children

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By: Arshid Qalmi

Children are sensitive to the arguments between their parents for several reasons. Children have an emotional bond with their parents, and they look up to them for love, support, and security. When parents argue, it can create an environment of tension and insecurity, which can be very distressing for children. Children are also afraid of the possibility of their parents separating or getting a divorce. They rely on their parents for stability, and the thought of losing one or both of them can be overwhelming. Children’s brains are still developing, and they are not yet fully equipped to understand complex adult emotions and conflicts. They may feel confused, anxious, and scared when they witness their parents arguing, as they may not know how to process their feelings or what to do. Also children learn a lot from their parents, and witnessing arguments can teach them negative patterns of communication and conflict resolution. This can affect their own relationships later in life.

Parental conflict is any type of disagreement or dispute that occurs between parents or caregivers of a child. This conflict can arise from a variety of sources, such as differences in parenting styles, financial stress, infidelity, communication breakdown, and differing expectations for the child.

Several researches suggest that parental conflict can have significant negative effects on children’s emotional, behavioral, and academic outcomes. It’s important for parents to be aware of these effects and take steps to minimize the impact of conflict on their children. For instance, Amato, P. R. (2001) found that parental conflict has a negative impact on children’s emotional and behavioral adjustment, academic achievement, and social relationships. Cummings, E. M., & Davies, P. T. (2010) found that children’s emotional security is compromised by marital conflict, which can lead to a range of negative outcomes such as anxiety, depression, and behavior problems. Harold, G. T., & Sellers, R. (2018) found that exposure to inter-parental conflict is associated with a range of negative outcomes, including anxiety, depression; conduct problems, and substance abuse. A Study of Indian Children and Adolescents” by Jyotsna Agrawal and Anju Bhatia, published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies in 2017 found that parental conflict was significantly associated with children’s emotional insecurity and behavioral problems, and that emotional insecurity partially mediated the relationship between conflict and child adjustment.

There are many negative consequences of parental conflict on children. Children who are exposed to parental conflict may experience emotional distress, including feelings of anxiety, depression, and helplessness. Such children may exhibit behavioral problems such as aggression, defiance, and disobedience. They may also have difficulty managing their emotions and regulating their behavior. Parental conflict can have a negative impact on children’s academic performance. Such children may have difficulty concentrating in school or completing homework assignments, which can lead to lower grades and reduced academic achievement. Exposure to parental conflict can also lead to physical health problems in children, such as headaches, stomachaches, and sleep disturbances. Children who grow up in households with frequent parental conflict may struggle to form healthy relationships later in life. They may have difficulty trusting others or managing conflict in their own relationships. Such children may be at increased risk for long-term mental health problems, including anxiety disorders, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Overall, the negative consequences of parental conflict on children can be significant and long-lasting. It’s important for parents to take steps to minimize conflict in the home and provide a stable and supportive environment for their children.

It may seem difficult to resolve and end parental conflicts, but there are several strategies that parents can use to work towards a more harmonious relationship.  It’s important for parents to identify the root cause of their conflict so that they can address it directly. This may involve exploring underlying issues such as communication difficulties, differing parenting styles, or financial stress. Parents who are struggling to resolve their conflict may benefit from seeking the help of a mental health professional or a psycho-therapist who can help parents develop strategies for improving communication, managing conflict, and building a stronger relationship. Practice active listening which involves listening to the other person’s perspective without judgment and responding in a non-defensive manner. This can help parents communicate more effectively and reduce the likelihood of misunderstandings. When emotions are running high, it can be helpful to take a break from the conflict and return to the conversation when both parents are feeling calmer. This can prevent arguments from escalating and allow for more productive communication. It’s important for parents to prioritize the well-being of their children and work together to create a stable and supportive environment for them. This may involve setting aside personal differences and focusing on the needs of the family as a whole. Resolving parental conflict requires a willingness to communicate openly and honestly, a commitment to working towards a shared goal, and a willingness to seek help when needed. By taking these steps, parents can reduce conflict and create a more positive and supportive family environment.

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