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The Effects of Parental Conflict on Childrens Development

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Divorce exposes a child to stress, conflict, and tension, whether between both parents, or themselves and a parent, as they are forced to take decisions where each choice seems like a losing option. Parents that give their child the choice of which parent to live with might feel they are giving their child a certain form of freedom but in reality, they might be putting the child in a very difficult situation (Steinman, 1981), where they have to choose one parent over the other, and thereafter deal with the guilt that arises from it and them sympathy they feel for the parent they did not choose. Of course, many parents may argue that an environment of unpleasant disagreement and conflict, one that is routinely disrupted by arguments and violence are more harmful to children than a divided household that arises from a divorce. This is, of course, a valid argument but provided that the environment is one that directly and physically affects a child. In a household or marriage where one of the parents is abusive towards the spouse or even the children, it is indeed beneficial to get a divorce and give the child a nurturing environment to grow up in. Sadly though, the leading causes of divorce include matters such as infidelity, lack of commitment or communication among spouses or a simple change of heart, all of which have no direct effect on a child and do not arise from a cause related to a child. Their reaction to the divorce is, therefore, one of confusion over why they are suddenly in the situation they had very little to do with…. More difficult than coming to accept a decision is having to work out for your own something that you do not wish to accept or acknowledge, yet are exceedingly forced to consider a reality. Researchers claim (Amato amp. Keith, 1991) that it is this initial stage that is perhaps most devastating for a child, one in which they are exposed to vulnerability regarding their future, grief over the disintegration of their family, and the difficult acceptance of partially losing one of their parents. Indeed many children are not aware of their parents troubles, and the realization of divorce is one that takes them by blind surprise them. As a result this leaves them feeling angry and powerless. All these feelings have significant impact on a child’s development, depending on their age at the time of the divorce. According to Wallerstein (1996), children of a preschool age, three to five, are likely to withdraw on the most recent developmental milestone they had achieved, whatever it may be. As they are too young to consciously understand or acknowledge the situation they are in, they react by consistently yearning for and desiring the parent that is no longer around them. This may lead to a certain feeling of vulnerability among them leading them to desire the security and comfort of a familiar feeling, which they may seek in a familiar toy or blanket. They may also begin wetting the bed as a result of the fear and insecurity that they feel. Slightly older children, aged six to eight, understand the absence of their parent, and instead replace them with fantasies and imaginary situations involving either that one single parent, or the hypothetically happy union of their parents. It is likely that these children, who are young enough to