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Effects of Parental Conflict on Children’s Behavior and Development

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It is estimated that three to four million children between the ages three and seventeen are at risk of exposure to domestic violence (“Effects”). While many spouses never get into such extreme cases of violence, many still have arguments that are filled with tension and spite. These conflicts, if not dealt with correctly, can have harmful impacts on the children who overhear the disputes. In order to cut down on the parental conflict that would otherwise harm a child’s development, premarital counseling should be made mandatory so that the couple can learn how to correctly address conflict, thus assisting in the correct behavioral development of a child.

When people are young, any need they have is very important. If any of these needs are not met or are dealt with incorrectly, their development could be at risk. Of all the stages in life, infancy is one of the most vital. Therefore, it is important that every psychological and physical requirement is met. The American Psychological Association has said that by meeting the demands of the infant quickly, children learn attachment and are further encouraged to trust the outside world (“Essential”).

Teaching them to trust the outside world is important because as they grow, they will see the world as inviting and will, therefore, be more apt to explore and learn. When a mother develops a strong relationship with her child, it “buffers [the] child against behavior problems” (Settle 9). A reason for this may be that the child feels more welcome and they know that they have support when issues develop. Should any of these needs not be met repeatedly, a child’s development could be at risk. Of all the dangers that could emerge, parental conflict is one of the greatest inhibiting factors for developmental success.

When parental conflict arises in a child’s life, their development can be hindered and lessons they may learn could harm them in their future. Divorce exposes children, but it is domestic violence and conflict that makes children at risk for depression and behavioral problems. If parents are in a state of constant descent, they can lose focus on their child and fail to parent as is needed. Parents can then fail to be consistent in the discipline of their children. Researchers, who have looked into the effects of discipline, have found that “inconsistent discipline has been linked to conduct problems, aggression, and juvenile delinquency” (Settle 8). Conduct problems could include vandalism, substance abuse, or bullying.

Because of these problems, it is important that parents still cooperate in all conflict. In fact, it is shown that when there is cooperation between parents, even in disagreements, there is a more positive child adjustment in their lives (Settle 8). The child learns the proper way to overcome conflict and they will see disagreement as a learning opportunity and not a situation that should be dreaded.

Thus, it is important that parents not get so overwhelmed by the conflict that the child is severely affected. It is even more crucial that conflict that concerns the child does not become apparent to the child. Research has shown that “if the conflict was about the child or the marriage, the child’s behavior was more aggressive” (Barthassat). Small outbursts of aggression can become more severe and further hinder development. If the child becomes a repeat offender of these outbursts, the anger can become a habit and this wrong solution to problem-solving becomes ingrained in them.

Besides outward displays of aggression, children can develop emotional problems such as depression. If they do not learn the correct solutions, they could end up in failed relationships or even in trouble with the law. In order to fix the root of the problem, one must know how to deal with the problem. As previously stated, in order to fix a problem, one must know methods in which they can deal with the problem. In marriage, it is guaranteed that conflicts will arise. Statistics show that there is a 40 to 50 percent chance of couples divorcing, and two-thirds of those occur in the first ten years of marriage (Kepler 1).

However, premarital counseling is a service that is provided and can help couples deal with their conflict. Marital counseling works using psychotherapy. Psychotherapy itself is used to help people overcome their problems using different types of psychological methods. When it comes to marriages, counseling is typically short-term and what happens depends on the couple.

Reasons for taking counseling sessions can include the following: forgiveness, managing conflict, how to maintain and develop enjoyment and companionship, and speaker/listener practices (Kepler 2). The overall goal of any counseling session is to build a foundation for marriage. In some states, if couples go through premarital counseling, they can be eligible for a discount of up to seventy dollars on their marriage license. Although counseling cannot help every relationship, the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program, or PREP, has found that “couples [who] have participated in this prevention strategy are experiencing considerably greater levels of marital satisfaction and are less likely to get divorced” (Kepler 2). Couples that know how to successfully maneuver through disagreement and have a strong relationship set a more positive example in which their children can learn from.

By making premarital counseling mandatory, all couples would have a better understanding of how to cohabitate successfully and resolve any conflict. By having a stronger marriage, any kids who enter the mix will have a safer environment in which they can grow up. Mandatory premarital counseling should be enforced so that parental conflict is dealt with correctly and children’s development is not harmed. Children need their emotional attachments met by their parents. Should parents live in conflict and fail to meet the needs of their children, their children can develop behavioral issues and depression. If the issues are not corrected, the couple may end up grieving the loss of their child.

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Effects of Parental Conflict on Children’s Behavior and Development. (2018, December 05). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 9, 2023, from
“Effects of Parental Conflict on Children’s Behavior and Development.” GradesFixer, 05 Dec. 2018,
Effects of Parental Conflict on Children’s Behavior and Development. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 9 Feb. 2023].
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