6 Negative Effects On Your Child When You Fight In Front Of Them

Disagreements are unavoidable in any relationship. However, to the impressionable minds of children, witnessing conflict between parents can have detrimental effects, especially when these arguments happen often and without clear resolutions.


It pays to be mindful with your words and actions especially in the early stages of their development. Various longitudinal studies have been conducted to pinpoint the different physical and psychological consequences of fighting in front of your children. In extreme cases, these adverse outcomes can be carried by children even until adulthood.


Anger and aggression


Anger and agression


Children exposed to parental quarrels are more likely to exhibit anger and aggression. Continuously witnessing fights between parents can make children defensive and lash out when confronted. On the other hand, some children may exhibit the opposite by being overly guarded and repressing their anger. Repression is equally worrying since suppressing anger can likely lead to a more violent emotional outburst once the child reaches the tipping point.




In some cases, older children may feel responsible for the fights between their parents. In such circumstances, they may exhibit signs of guilt. This can occur when children overhear the source of their parents’ conflict, such as those related to school or other expenses. This can cause serious emotional distress for a kid.


Impaired brain development


Impaired brain development


Researchers have managed to obtain some evidence that conflict within the family, including arguments and abuse among family members, could impair brain development.The result of brain scans among respondents who encountered “mild to moderate” family problems when they were below 11 years old had smaller cerebellums which is associated with stress regulation and sensory development. Younger children cannot fully process complex social situations, hence highly emotional outbursts could imprint negative memories and associations to the observant child.


 Aberrant emotional adjustment


Aberrant emotional adjustment
In a study published in the journal Development and Psychopathology. A chaotic home environment, including moments of verbal and physical aggression, can have unfavourable effects on a child’s emotional adjustment. Witnessing prolonged aggression between parents can impair the child’s ability to process their own emotional responses which could make them at risk for depression and anxiety attacks.


Self-esteem issues


Self-esteem issues


The home is a place of comfort and security for kids, so to witness any kind of upheaval can rattle their innocent mind. Basic socializations start at home. Through observation, children learn to read behaviours and react accordingly. For toddlers who take in stimuli indiscriminately, petty fights and serious arguments are equally stressful, much like premium and cheap flowers are both just flowers in their untrained eyes. When parents often fight in front of them, a child may become withdrawn and unsure about how to act in social situations. Instead of building up their confidence, they could end up being wary about the world around them.


Stress and fatigue


In a longitudinal study conducted by anthropologists Mark Flinn and Barry England, they found that children who lived with parents who constantly bickered exhibited higher average levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. While you would think they would habituate due to constantly being exposed to quarrels between parents, the results showed otherwise. In fact, these children also exhibited fatigue, slept poorly, and were more prone to illness compared to children living in a relatively peaceful home.


This article is contributed by Nadia Jamal

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