Conflict Between Parents Isn’t Necessarily Bad for Kids

Posted on June 21, 2012

A new study from the University of Notre Dame and funded by the National Institute of Mental Health tells us what we already knew: parents who fight destructively in front of their young children can expect their kids to have higher rates of anxiety and depression during their teenage years. The study does point to previous research that is surprising: “. . . not all parental conflict is bad. Previous research has shown that during constructive conflict, the use of support, verbal and physical affection, problem-solving and resolution, for example, elicit positive emotional reactions from children.” On the other hand, “Verbal hostility, physical aggression, nonverbal anger and withdrawal, on the other hand, is destructive conflict that elicits negative emotional and behavioral reactions.”

The emotional insecurity that underlies destructive conflict is the source of what becomes the problem for children. Of course, emotional insecurity for parents is what causes conflict to become destructive in the first place.