High Conflict Marriages and Children

marital conflict

Research has linked parent conflict to adjustment problems for their children. Children become sad, angry, and fearful when regularly exposed to destructively handled conflict. Children are usually more aware of what is going on between their parents than most adults realize. Many adults think that divorcing will protect children from the negative effects of conflict. The fact is children are hurt by how their parents fight. Even if parents in a high conflict marriage divorce, children are still likely to do poorly because their parents haven’t learned to manage conflict in a healthy way. Children are likely to imitate their parents’ behaviors and interpret their peers’ intentions negatively.

So, how can parents protect their children from these risks? What can parents do?

They can disagree with one another, but they should not fight regularly. If parents do have a conflict in front of their children, they should take a break to allow everyone to calm down. Parents should let their children see them come back together. “As far as your children’s well-being is concerned, coming back to some point of emotional harmony is more important than resolving whatever it was you were fighting about. So do your kids a favor. Work together to manage your conflicts well and with respect.”

For more information:

Markman, H., Stanley, S., & Blumberg, S. L. (1994). Fighting for your marriage : Positive steps for preventing divorce and preserving a lasting love. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. US].

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