Parental Aggression Can Greatly Harm A Child’s Emotional Development

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By Kathleen Lees

Parental spats can mean serious consequences for children, according to recent findings published in the journal Development and Psychopathology.

Researchers at New York University Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development believe that excessive chaos in the home for prolonged periods can contribute to significant emotional damage in young children.

Furthermore, their findings also revealed neurobiological, behavioral and cognitive issues in children exposed to significant conflict and violence in the home.

“Our study points to ways in which aggression between parents may powerfully shape children’s emotional adjustment,” said lead study author C. Cybele Raver, professor of applied psychology at NYU Steinhardt, in a news release. “Arguing and fighting is psychologically stressful for the adults caught in conflict; this study demonstrates the costs of that conflict for children in the household as well.”

Researchers said they believe that children exposed to excessive parental conflict may have difficulties regulating their emotions when in risky situations in public settings, such as school or play dates.

Researchers found this after evaluating 1,025 children and their families living in eastern North Carolina and central Pennsylvania, all between the ages of two to 58 months old.

Parents were also asked to fill out questions regarding household chaos and stability that could better assess the children’s ability to correctly recognize and identify emotions at various ages involved in the study.

The findings addressed how higher exposure to physical aggression in the home was linked to lower performance on various emotional labeling tasks and greater aggression, overall.

“This study shines a bright light on the importance of supporting parents as they navigate the ups and downs of partnership or marriage,” Raver concluded. “Parents need help regulating their own feelings of anger, frustration, and worry when balancing the demands of work, family, and romantic partnership, especially when money is tight.”

 

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