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A research study on the effects of parental hostility

Problematic parent behaviours

The impact of couple conflict on children Couple relationships: Few would dispute the suggestion that the quality of our closest relationships profoundly affects how we feel about ourselves. Much less widely acknowledged however — although just as true — is the fact that the quality of these relationships has material and measurable consequences for our lives and those around us, affecting the emotional, cognitive and physical development of our children, our capacity to work and to be fulfilled in work, and our physical and mental health as we get older.

Policy-makers, commissioners of health and social care services and frontline staff delivering care, amongst others, have an invaluable opportunity to make the quality of couple relationships a central focus of their work.

To help us improve our communications click here to provide feedback on this policy document. While periodic conflict between couples is natural, and something which most children will be exposed to at some point in their lives without necessarily experiencing adverse effects, couple conflict which is frequent, intense and poorly resolved is very harmful, research indicates. This kind of conflict can have an effect on children of all ages. Babies as young as six months, for example, exhibit higher physiological symptoms of distress such as elevated heart rate in response to overt, hostile exchanges between their parents when compared to exchanges between non-parental adults.

Infants and children up to the age of five years show signs of distress by crying, acting out, freezing, as well as withdrawing from or attempting to intervene in the actual conflict itself.

Historically, inter-parental conflict has been considered a threat to children only if it is overt, openly acrimonious or hostile in form and content. Indeed, practitioners and policy makers have in the past treated conflict between parents as a threat, not only to marital partners, but also to children, if — and only if — the behaviour between parents is severe enough to warrant being described as domestic violence. Indeed, research supports the proposal that practitioners and policy-makers move away from considering conflict between parents as a simple present or absent dichotomy i.

For example, parents who are embroiled in a relationship that may be described as non-acrimonious, but who are emotionally withdrawn from each other to such an extent that the relationship is devoid of any warmth or affection, may put children as much at a research study on the effects of parental hostility for long-term emotional and behavioural problems as parents involved in a relationship marked by frequent, intense, poorly resolved and overtly hostile conflicts.

Resolution of conflict, in particular, has been shown to be a powerful factor in reducing the negative effects of conflict on children. For example, one study Cummings, 1991 found that children exposed to unresolved conflict continued fighting, silent treatment etc.

This finding emphasises the importance of conflict management, and the need for the promotion of positive conflict management strategies in interventions aimed at addressing the adverse effects of family conflict on children e. The body of research considered in this briefing paper highlights the significant role that the couple relationship plays in promoting positive or negative developmental outcomes for children.

The inter-parental relationship not only serves as a factor directly related to the psychological well-being of children, but serves as an orienting influence on the experiences and expectations children have of other family relationships, including the parent-child relationship. Promoting intervention programmes and assessment strategies that focus on the inter-parental relationship may therefore pay significant dividends in rectifying the negative consequences of family stress, family conflict and family breakdown on children and parents in the short-term; and help prevent the intergenerational transmission of factors that lead to disrupted family relationships and family breakdown in the long-term.

As Cowan and Cowan 2008 conclude, the time has come to move away from family-focused interventions that emphasise parenting level interventions only, to programmes that keep the family as a system in mind. This briefing paper is an abridged version of Parents and Partners: An update of the Amato and Keith 1991 Meta-Analysis. Journal of Family Psychology, 15, 355—370. Some relevant data from family research and intervention studies.

Development and Psychopathology, 14, 731—759. Two variations of a preventive intervention for couples: Effects on parents and children curing the transition to school. Monographs in parenting series pp. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers. Children and marital conflict: The impact of family dispute and resolution.

  • However, this may not be the case in all families;
  • The increased risk of poor adjustment in children may partly be due to high conflict and other problems in the family before the separation;
  • They should also feel safe when expressing their feelings regardless of which parent they are with;
  • The level of conflict between parents usually reduces significantly in the two to three years after separation, although it remains high in approximately ten per cent of families;
  • Links with children's behaviour problems.

Guilford series on social and emotional development. Marital conflict and children: An emotional security perspective. Resolution and children's responses to interadult anger. Developmental Psychology, 27, 462—470. Marital conflict and child adjustment: An emotional security hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin, 116, 387—411. Young children's responses to constructive marital disputes. Journal of Family Psychology, 8, 160—169.

Inter-parental conflict and the children of discord and divorce. Psychological Bulletin, 92, 310—330. Psychological Bulletin, 108, 267—290. Initial investigations of the cognitive-contextual framework. Child Development 64, 215-230. A prospective investigation of appraisals as mediators of the link between inter-parental conflict and child adjustment. Child Development, 74, 1176—1193. Marital conflict and adolescent distress: The role of adolescent awareness.

Family Court of Australia

Child Development, 68, 330—350. Not in front of the children? How conflict between parents affects children. Linking extreme marital discord, child rearing, and child behaviour problems: Evidence from battered women.

Child Development, 62, 311—327 Jouriles, E.

Conflict in families after separation

Physical violence and other forms of marital aggression: Links with children's behaviour problems. Journal of Family Psychology, 10, 223—234.

The Collaborative Divorce Project: Family Court Review, 43, 38—51. A meta-analysis of their associations with child adjustment.

Child Development, 79, 1942—1956. Tavistock Relationships 2012 Parenting interventions which focus on the couple relationship: Tavistock Relationships Towle, C. The evaluation and management of marital status in foster homes. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 1, 271—284.