It is normal for parents to argue, but the way these disagreements affect children varies greatly. What can parents and carers do to limit the harm caused by their rows?
What happens at home really does affect children’s long-term mental health and development.
But it is not only the relationship between the parent and child that is important.
How parents get on with each other also plays a big role in a child’s wellbeing, with the potential to affect everything from mental health to academic success and future relationships.
But there is the chance for some good to come out of a “positive” row.
In most cases, arguments will have little or no negative effects for children.
But when parents shout and are angry with each other, when they consistently withdraw or give each other the “silent treatment”, problems can sometimes arise.
UK and international research conducted over several decades through observations in the home, long-term follow up work and experimental studies, suggests that from as young as six months, children exposed to conflict may have increased heart rates and stress hormone responses.
Infants, children and adolescents can show signs of disrupted early brain development, sleep disturbance, anxiety, depression, conduct disorder and other serious problems as a result of living with severe or chronic inter-parental conflict.
Similar effects are also seen in children who are exposed to ongoing but less intense conflict, compared with children whose parents constructively negotiate or resolve conflicts.
– Prof Gordon Harold
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