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Parents' Conflict will Impact Children's Teen Years


Parents' Conflict will Impact Children's Teen Years

(epharmanews)- Although conflicts and arguments between a married couple are often seen as normal, a new study shows that such fights will affect younger children’s future. Parents who fight in front of their kindergarten-aged children could be setting them up for depression, anxiety and behavioral problems as adolescents, according to new research from the University of Notre Dame.

Psychology Professor Mark Cummings and colleagues at the University of Rochester led the study that involved 235 middle-class mothers, fathers and children who were examined over seven years. Researchers focused on the links between marital conflict when the children were in kindergarten and the children’s emotional insecurity in the early school years, and subsequent problems during the teen years.

“The results further highlight the possibility that there will be persistent negative effects of children’s early experiences when there is conflict between their parents, at least when their emotional insecurity increases as a result of the conflict,” according to Cummings, Notre Dame Endowed Chair in Psychology.

“This study has important implications for clinicians and parents,” Cummings added.

The results, published in Child Development, show that destructive conflict between parents when their children are young predicted children’s emotional insecurity later in childhood, which, in turn, predicted adjustment problems in adolescence, including depression and anxiety.

Not all parental conflicts are bad, Cummings noted. During constructive argument, the use of support, verbal and physical affection, problem-solving and resolution, for example, elicit positive emotional reactions from children, previous research has shown.

Verbal hostility, physical aggression, nonverbal anger and withdrawal, on the other hand, is destructive conflict that elicits negative emotional and behavioral reactions.

Children’s emotional security about family ties is related to their sense of protection, safety and security, and has implications for how they do socially and emotionally. The researchers observed parents discussing a topic they had identified as hard to handle, rating specific conflict behaviors. They also asked parents to report on their conflicts.

“Emotional insecurity appears to be an explanation for the effects of marital conflict on children’s later problems,” Cummings explained. “This mechanism lasts across relatively long periods of time and across the transition between childhood and adolescence.”


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Prepared by: Abdullatief Janat


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