How do arguments between two people affect who is witnessing them? And when these witnesses are young children or adolescents, how do verbal conflicts between their parents influence their character and their physical and mental health ?
Experts point out that disagreements between parents are normal and that is how they should explain it to their children. However, more important than the discussion itself is the way in which it is managed and resolved in the face of the little ones , since it is proven that when the fights are aggressive, there are shouts or, even, when both withdraw the word After the conflict, they can end up affecting the children in a very profound way and for life.
There are many investigations that have studied the effects of arguments in children . One of the most recent has been published in 2018 in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry by Gordon Harold, professor of psychology at the University of Sussex (England), director of the Andrew and Virginia Rudd center and specialist in child psychology .
After an exhaustive review of the academic research developed since the 1930s on the psychology of the child, Professor Harold concludes that minors exposed to conflict can experience different physical conditions such as increased heart rate and imbalances in related hormones with stress . They can also suffer from delays in brain development , sleep problems, anxiety, depression, and behavior problems .
The specialist emphasizes that age is not a determining factor , since it is proven that these adverse effects can begin to develop very early, around six months of age , and that they can equally affect children subjected to strong discussions and sporadic as those who witness less intense discussions but for a continuous period of time.
According to the expert, there are also great differences in the way in which boys and girls deal with these conflicts. While boys often experience behavior problems , girls are more emotionally involved .
Despite the fact that a separation or divorce of the parents is usually seen as the worst case scenario for a child, Harold maintains in another publication entitled The child and family law that beyond the breakup itself, what affects the little ones the most is the systematic discussion provoked by it . In fact, even if the couple separates but the arguments continue (even at a distance) with the disqualification of the other parent or using the child as a bargaining chip or to attack each other, the little one will continue to be immersed in a vicious circle that does not benefit him .
Paradoxically, parental silence can also affect children in a very damaging way. As Harold points out in his analysis, if the relationship between parents grows cold or they withdraw the word due to continuous conflicts, the children are also exposed to suffer emotional and behavioral problems .
Short and long term effects
The most serious thing in this situation, as experts indicate, are the effects that such discussions can cause in children both in the short and long term. The child has a reference model in his parents and if what he sees from an early age is that verbal conflicts are resolved at home with disrespect instead of education and assertiveness, he may end up reproducing these behaviors not only at home but also in school and in their future relationships. The quality of the relationship between the parents can, therefore, establish a pattern of behavior that will be repeated in subsequent generations.
The constant disrespect between both parents can also be transferred to children in the form of insecurity (both personally and in the family environment), low self-esteem, lack of concentration, school failure, low tolerance for frustration and difficulty in controlling emotions . When the child adopts the figure of mediator between both parents but cannot stop the discussion, this can also provoke a deep feeling of guilt .
Likewise, depression problems are also usually frequent among children subjected to this type of fights, being especially silent at these ages as they become less expressive and communicate less what they feel .