Effects of Parental Conflict on Children


“Radha was scolded badly by her teacher for trying to open her tiffin box while class is going on. Every friend is laughing at her now. She is unable to concentrate on the class work, but somehow she forced herself to keep going. She felt like crying. How can she tell her teacher that she is very hungry, when this is just the first period? Being just of age seven, her little mind is confused with so many questions. Why mom and dad fight over silly things? Why can’t another person just say sorry, as she did right now with her angry teacher, when other one is angry? Why the other person can’t eat burnt bread, she could have ate it very well, when all of them were hungry?

Yes the last night also Radha’s parent had a severe argument over her mom serving burnt bread on the dinner table. On the hit of the argument dad threw all the foods on the floor and mom then put them all in the dustbin. All of them slept in empty stomach. Radha was very afraid, she was hungry, she wanted to tell mom and dad not to throw food she wants to have it but couldn’t. Instead she went to her bed, she was shivering out of fear, she was crying badly for which even she was rebuked by parents, and finally went to sleep. At morning while coming to school she had only a glass of milk, the situation at home was so tensed that she couldn’t tell her mom to give her more food. She just silently took her tiffin from mom’s hand and boarded the school bus.

Before she left for school, she saw no one is talking to each other in her family; all were just getting prepared for their office and doing other regular chore silently. That silence is bothering her more now even after coming to school, as she have no idea on how to solve this matter.”

The above mention story of Radha (name changed here) is a real life case example recorded to show how argument turned fight between parents over small matters make their child suffer the most, both physically and emotionally.

In one of the articles by Early Intervention Foundation (EIF, 2016), co-reported by University of Sussex, it was advocated that the parental conflicts is potently impactful on early developments of the children, their mental health, overall personality and future lives. Parents undoubtedly wish to provide their children with all the love they need to grow up, but the conflicting message delivered when the parents are aruguing can leave children overwhelmed with feelings of fear, insecurity and inadequacy. As the child is directly exposed to parental aggressive behavior (be it verbal, non-verbal or both), it can come way between their healthy development, even imposing them with negative emotions like depression, anxiety and aggression. As a result, children might face difficulty in sleeping and developing healthy eating habits along with facing problems in school and other social sphere; or may develop unhealthy attitude toward relationships in future.

Concerns a child might encounter if exposed to parental conflict (be it for a little while or a prolonged time period):

  • Health issues– Unhealthy sleeping  and eating pattern; headache; digestion problem
  • Poor concentration– Both in case of studies or any other fond activities
  • Emotional distress- Social apathy; anxious and fearful; depressive mood; insecure feeling
  • Low self esteem– Poor communication skills; unable to express self; constant feeling of shame, guilt, hopelessness, helplessness and unworthiness
  • Aggression– Child picks up the aggressive behavior from his/ her parent and demonstrate the same personality in future

Warning signs that Parental Conflict is Affecting Child:

  • Child starts crying when parents are arguing
  • Becomes insecure and more clingy to demand attention
  • Gets very quite on experiencing parental conflict
  • Mostly scared, nervous and unable to express emotions
  • Unable to socialize with others or make friends
  • Lacks interest in studies and other activities that he/ she earlier use to enjoy
  • Reporting physical discomfort often, especially after parental conflict episodes
  • Showing temper tantrums or often similar kind of aggressive behavior (verbal or non-verbal) in schools or other social places
  • Overwhelmed with feeling of guilt and shame; often blaming self for parental conflict
  • Agitated and insecure; showing symptoms of depression

Points to be Noted by Parents:

  • While living together, husband and wife will evidently differ on various circumstances.
  • But it is equally important to make those little differences not influence your child’s healthy growing.
  • It is always better to resolve the problems in constructive ways so that it never makes your child feel uncomfortable.
  • Avoid being aggressive even on the face of all odds.
  • Try not to utter abusive words when any domestic conflict arises.
  • Disagreement over any matter need to resolved with a calm and assertive approach
  • During the moments of disagreement try not to respond immediately; rather review the matter, retrospect and then reciprocate to resolve and reconcile.

Disagreements and conflicts are part and parcel of married life. But that should not come in the way of living a healthy and happy life. What is most important to understand is that, being a parent, it becomes more crucial to find ways for resolving daily life disagreements constructively rather than aggressively. Children learn to value and respect relations by seeing their parents only; hence, it becomes evident for parents to manage their family bondings and relations even more responsibly so that their child can get the best of the domestic environment to his/ her ultimate blooming of potentials.

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