Different reaction by some Children exposed to parental conflict than others.

New research has pin pointed why some children are more affected by than others and caused different emotional and behavioral problems. Where children blamed themselves for the conflict between parents, they were more likely to have behavioural problems, such as anti-social behaviour. The impact of everday conflict is driven by how children understand the problems in the relationship as well as the nature of the conflict itself.

If their parents’ fighting or arguing led to a child feeling threatened, or fearful that the family would split up, the child was more likely to experience emotional problems, such as depression. The nature of the that had the most impact on chldren were hostile relationships between parents, poor parenting practices, negative parent-child relationships and maternal depression.

Harold of the University of Leicester said the research highlighted the importance of ensuring that intervention programmes focused on helping parents to resolve these day-to-day conflicts with their partner, while also reiterating the importance of promoting positive .

Professor Harold said: “Children exposed to between their parents — conflicts that are non-violent, but frequent, intense and poorly resolved — are at elevated risk for , even when we consider poor parenting practices or passed on from parents to children, in explaining the effects of hostile relationships on children.”

“Importantly, children may not actually be responsible for their parents’ . Rather, they simply need to feel or perceive that they are responsible in order to experience negative ,” said Professor Harold.

Professor Anita Thapar, of the Institute of Psychological Medicine and at said “The research showed the pattern of family and varied for different types of child mental health problem as well as for boys and girls. This research looked at the relationship between genetic liability to child and negative family experiences in the development of these problems and sought to take account of specific parental influences on children.”

“By highlighting parents’ conflict management strategies as well as parenting practices, intervention programmes can be developed that target risk mechanisms specific to the types of problems experienced by children living in households with high levels of , such as parental separation or divorce,” said Professor Harold.


Anita Thapar, Gordon Harold, Frances Rice, Kate Langley, Michael O’Donovan. The contribution of gene–environment interaction to psychopathology. Development and Psychopathology, 2007; 19 (04) DOI: 10.1017/S0954579407000491

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