How Is The Emotional Health Of Children Affected When They Witness Their Parents Arguing

Date March 15, 2018

One of the worst childhood memories is of parents arguing. For children, their parents are the biggest source of protection and care. So, for them to see these two figures shouting and screaming at each other is unthinkable. Their emotional response to such a scene is naturally one of fear.

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Although it may not seem like it, an argument in front of the children isn't simply a bad moment, but a conflict which lasts long in a child's memory. According to experts, not only is it harmful to children to see their parents fighting and insulting each other, but it also affects their ability to identify and control their own emotions.

According to a study carried out by the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University, children's emotional response is affected negatively by physical or verbal aggression by their parents. That is, exposing children to these kinds of situations alters their ability to identify and control their own emotions.

Researchers came to these conclusions after studying 1,025 children from the time they turned two months old, to the age of five years. They visited their homes, gave questionnaires to their parents and assigned several tasks to all family members with the objective of measuring the level of family chaos.

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After a period of 58 months, researchers examined children's ability to correctly identify their emotions and they discovered that those who were exposed to more parental aggression were less capable of identifying their own emotions. In fact, the more prolonged their exposure to arguments, the more difficult it was for them to control their own emotions of abandonment, sadness, and fear. This translates into a greater risk of suffering from depression and anxiety later in life.

Arguments among couples may be perfectly normal, and although many try to control themselves and discuss things in private, away from children, others can't control the impulse and end up losing their cool. However, it's important to put yourself in your child's shoes and with their level of understanding. For adults, it may just be a colorful exchange of opinions, but for children, it could seem like the end of the world.

This can lead them to draw their own conclusions and get confused. Let's be honest, the first thing on a child's mind may be their parents' separation.

Many of us must have gone through the moving situation in which, in the middle of a heated argument in front of our children, one of them says, "please stop fighting". Regarding this, it must be said that some insist not all arguments should be avoided in front of children, because they can be useful to teach them about conflict resolution. But it is important to highlight that one thing is a debate while attacking and insulting is quite different altogether.

If the damage has already been done and the children have witnessed a bad fight, it's vital to calm them down and let them know that everything is okay. Communicating with them is the best way of building a solid relationship based on trust.

If the argument was a one-off, you should explain to them that it's something normal for a couple, but it doesn't take away any of the love at home. It's also advisable to say sorry for having lost control in front of them.

If, on the other hand, the situation gets out of hand, it is a good idea to see a specialist who is better equipped to deal with the issue. In any case, arguing in front of children affects them a great deal, confusing them and harming their ability to deal with their own emotions. This is also linked to the development of their emotional expression and intelligence, which as we know, are fundamental parts of life.

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The material in this article is for informational purposes only and does not replace the advice of a certified specialist.

Children Health