Parental Conflict and the Children
High conflict between parents during and after the dissolution of their marriage causes major stress for the children and can result in serious behavioral and emotional problems. High parental conflict during the marriage is generally assumed to continue after separation. However, separation can sometimes decrease the amount of conflict experienced between the parents. Approximately one fourth of divorced parents report low marital conflict. In some of these marriages the anger and conflict ignites at the time of separation and stressful court proceedings. Therefore, some children experience less conflict as a result of separation while other children experience more.
Studies have shown that high conflict during the marriage is associated with a child’s poor adjustment. Similar studies regarding post-divorce conflict’s effect on a child’s poor adjustment are less consistent. Some studies have shown that post-divorce conflict has a more negative effect on a child’s adjustment then high martial conflict, while other studies have shown the opposite. The inconsistencies in the studies may be a result of failure to differentiate between type of conflict, type of adjustment and extent of the child’s direct exposure to anger and conflict.
Even in light of these studies, high conflict is most destructive post-divorce when the parents use their children to express their anger and are physically and emotionally aggressive either in person or over the phone. Parents who use their children to carry hostile messages to the other parent, degrade the other parent in front of the children or prohibit that child from mentioning the other parent create high stress and loyalty conflict issues in their children. Such children are more depressed and anxious. Children who are spared from being trapped in the middle of the parents’ conflict, generally, do not differ from children whose parents have low to no conflict.
If you, or someone you know has questions regarding parental conflict and dissolution of marriage contact the Pates Law Group for more information.