Children and the Effects of Parental Conflict

As parents, there are going to be times when we disagree with each other and an argument might ensue; one that the children witness, regardless of our efforts to slow it down. An exception to the rule is often manageable and won’t create long lasting effects; however chronic parental conflict will. 

Our home is set up to be a safe place; one in which we don’t experience ongoing conflict or chaos; meant to provide security and consistency in care. When parents (either living together or separated), engage in continuous conflict, it is the children who will retain the long lasting effects of that conflict:

  • Children often feel guilty for the conflict. We internalize everything as children and without a fully functioning rational brain, kids don’t have the ability to not feel responsible for their parent’s arguments. As a result, they are more likely to form core beliefs that reflect this struggle.
  • Their interpersonal skills tend to suffer. Children from high conflict homes model what they see, which can often result in aggressive behaviours with their peers. They tend to struggle with being able to cooperate and compromise.
  • Increased probability of  anxiety. Often pressured to take sides (this can be both verbal and implied), children of high conflict parents worry about whose side to take, which increases their emotional distress. Living in a home where fear is often experienced will create the same result.
  • Increased probability of depression. It is almost impossible to not internalize the experience of a high conflict home due to the amount of criticism and aggression that exists.
  • Decreased emotional security with parents. Less attention is being paid to the children when parents are so focused on fighting with each other which can lead to children turning to their peers for their attachment needs.

High conflict parents will often choose to believe that “children are resilient,” or “they aren’t really paying attention to what is going on.” This is the biggest misconception we will fall prey to. The effects of high conflict on children brews – we often don’t see the full effects until adolescence – and it will produce long lasting effects.

It always takes two to create and maintain conflict. Get professional help to stop the chronic conflict.

By giving your children the gift of a relatively conflict free home you are providing them the foundation for  a relatively conflict free life. 🙂

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