How parental conflict can affect your children

As parents we try not to argue in front of our children but at the same time it is normal for parents to argue. We know that children find it hard to cope when parents argue or have disagreements and they can become disturbed if these arguments become persistent or hostile. The way parental disagreements affect children varies greatly and what happens in the family home can affect the children’s well being, development, long term mental health and can impact upon their ability to make future relationships. Research shows that bad relationships can be passed from one generation to the next.

Divorce or parents deciding to live apart from each other has historically been viewed as having a damaging and potentially lasting effect on children. However, it is now considered that the arguments that take place between parents prior to, during or after a separation actually cause damage to the children rather than the initial upset of the separation of the parents. A 2017 University of York study found that children were more damaged by the arguments that occurred during their parent’s marriage or relationship than by their parent’s subsequent divorce or separation. The study also found that children witnessing arguments between their parents at home were 30% more likely to develop behavioural issues. In most cases arguments will have little or no negative effects on children but when parents shout, become angry with each other, consistently withdraw or give each other the silent treatment these problems can arise.

It is therefore essential that parents recognise that when they engage in arguments or conflict with each other they are likely to affect their children. Parents must also be aware that when their conflict is about the children, it is the children who often blame themselves or feel guilty for the arguments taking place. Parents should also recognise that whilst there may not be domestic abuse or violence between them, the affect on the children from arguing can be just as damaging. What is of benefit to children is how they interpret and understand the causes and potential consequences of conflict.

Thursfields provide legal advice on a wide range of family disputes and can provide assistance to parents who are unable to resolve disputes in an amicable way. Whether this is through divorce, separation or assisting parents to reach agreement on arrangements for their children spending time with each parent, we are able to offer advice and support to parents to minimise parental conflict and achieve a resolution in a timely and cost effective way. We also work with expert professional organisations who can assist parents to overcome conflict and to work with children who may be presenting with issues or behaviour arising from parental conflict.

For more information please contact Philip Rea, Senior Associate on 0121 227 3365 or e-mail

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Thursfields family team are available at any of our offices and surrounding areas – Birmingham, Worcester, Kidderminster, Solihull, and Halesowen.

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