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How can conflicts between parents affect children?

Bonnie Harris
Pediatrics

Parents are their children's models in good times and bad. Our children watch us and learn. When parents are in conflict children learn where the power is. If the child's father intimidates a more submissive mother, boys can learn that that's what fathers do and that's how mothers should respond. The same is true in whatever roles the parents tend to play with one another. Conflict warrants fear and until and unless the child learns to make sense of the situation by talking about it with someone who can help, the child takes in the fear and turns it into whatever power play suits that child's personality.

Erik Fisher
Psychology
Conflict is a part of life, and in many marriages it can be part of a daily occurrence. In my decade and a half of working with couples and families, when arguments and conflicts happen between parents, it almost always impacts much more than the two parties involved. Kids can often be affected, and the impact can last a lifetime. Regardless of the genesis of the belief that the child has caused their parents' problems, the guilt can be overwhelming and can lead to depression, anxiety, drug/alcohol abuse, relationship issues, future divorce, self-harm and even suicide.

Kids often feel like they are in the middle of their parents' conflicts whether parents intend them to feel that way or not. Sometimes more significant to the child is when the parents' conflicts lead to divorce.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.