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Parental conflict damages children's mental health, finds a study

The research shows that the emotional processing of these children, too, can be affected -- potentially making them over-vigilant, anxious and vulnerable to distorting human interactions that are neutral in tone, throwing them off-balance interperson

Edited by: India TV Lifestyle Desk, New Delhi [ Published on: March 28, 2018 23:53 IST ]
Parental conflict damages children's mental health, finds a

Parental conflict damages children's mental health, finds a study

Being a parent is hard work and arguing in front of the kids is unfortunately, an inevitability – you are only human after all. However, while the odd heated discussion is unlikely to lead to any serious long-term damage, destructive conflict and the ongoing use of hostile strategies (ie., angry tones, yelling, screaming, name calling, put downs, the silent treatment, threatening to leave, pushing and violence) can be harmful for youngsters, particularly for those who are emotionally and physiologically sensitive.

If you are expressing your conflicts in front of your children, you may be harming them with lasting damages, a new study suggests. The research shows that the emotional processing of these children, too, can be affected -- potentially making them over-vigilant, anxious and vulnerable to distorting human interactions that are neutral in tone, throwing them off-balance interpersonally as adults.

"The message is clear: even low-level adversity like parental conflict isn't good for kids," said the study's lead author Alice Schermerhorn, Assistant Professor at the University of Vermont in the US.

For the study, published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, researchers recruited 99 children between nine to 11 years old and divided them into two groups based on a series of psychological assessments they took that scored how much parental conflict they experienced and how much they felt the conflict threatened their parent's marriage.

Children were then shown a series of photographs of couples engaged in happy, angry or neutral interactions and asked to choose which category the photos fit.

Children from the low conflict homes consistently scored the photos accurately. 

Those from high conflict homes who experienced the conflict as a threat were able to accurately identify the happy and angry couples, but not those in neutral poses -- incorrectly reading them as either angry or happy or saying they didn't know which category they fit.

The study is also one of the first to measure the impact of temperamental shyness on the children's ability to process and recognize emotion, the researcher said.

The shy children in the study, who were identified via a questionnaire given to the mothers of the study subjects, were unable to correctly identify couples in neutral poses, even if they were not from high conflict homes.

Shyness also made them more vulnerable to parental conflict. Children who were both shy and felt threated by their parents' conflict had a high level of inaccuracy in identifying neutral interactions.

(With IANS Inputs)

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