Parents Arguing in Front of Children

Conflict between divorced parents can worsen kids’ mental health ─Study

*Researchers worry about how these kinds of arguments between divorced parents affect children’s stress levels

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

Generally, divorce can be a major source of physical and mental stress for consumers, and a fresh study has explored how kids of divorced parents are affected by this change in the family dynamics.

Researchers from the Arizona State University, in the United States (US) state that kids are more likely to struggle with mental health concerns when their divorced or separated parents are frequently arguing.

Karey O’Hara, one of the researchers, said: “Conflict is a salient stressor for kids, and the link between exposure to interparental conflict and mental health problems in children is well established across all family types ─married, cohabitating, separated, and divorced.

“Conflict between divorced or separated parents predicted children experiencing fear that they would be abandoned by one or both parents.”

O’Hara stated: “This feeling was associated with future mental health problems, especially for those who had strong relationships with their fathers.”

On discovering how kids fear being abandoned in the process, the researchers had families enrolled in the New Beginnings Programme ─ an initiative that helps families transition following a divorce or separation ─ participate in the study.

Nearly 560 kids between ages nine and 18 were surveyed about their experiences with parental conflict, stress levels, and overall well-being.

The study findings revealed that the more that separated or divorced parents fought, the more stressed and anxious the kids felt.

The researchers learned that kids who experienced the highest levels of parental conflict feared being abandoned by their parents.

This also had long-term consequences, as the study discovered that kids who worried about abandonment were also more likely to struggle with mental health nearly a year down the road.

“When parents who are married or cohabitating engage in conflict, the child might worry about their parents separating.

“But children whose parents are divorced or separated have already seen the dissolution of their family.

“The idea that they might be abandoned might be unlikely, but it is not illogical from their perspective,” added O’Hara.

Stressing that parental relationships don’t play a role in minimising kids’ stress levels, the researchers also learned that this correlation between parental conflict and kids’ mental health struggles was consistent regardless of the kind of relationship parents had with their kids.

Several recent studies have indicated that parents serve an important role in managing stress for their kids.

However, the study noted that exposure to this kind of persistent arguing was enough to be detrimental to kids’ mental wellness despite any closeness with parents.

O’Hara further noted: “Having a high-quality parental relationship is protective, but it is possible that quality parenting alone is not enough in the context of high levels of interparental conflict between divorced parents.”

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