Parental conflict and the impact on children’s anxiety and behavior

The Impact of Parental Conflict on a Child’s Mental Health

Last Updated on April 24, 2023 by Jasmine KeLa

As parents, it is normal to argue or have disagreements from time to time. However, when these conflicts become frequent and intense, they can have a negative impact on a child’s mental health. In this article, we will explore the long-term effects of parental conflict on a child’s mental health and discuss some ways to neutralize this impact.

Why Parents Fighting is a Problem?

Parental conflict can create an emotionally charged environment that makes a child feel unsafe and insecure. Even when the conflicts do not escalate to physical violence, the verbal and emotional hostility can be just as damaging.

Long-term Mental Health Effects:

Increased Relationship Problems

Children who grow up in homes where parents frequently fight or argue may find it difficult to form healthy relationships later in life. They may have trust issues or struggle to communicate effectively, leading to difficulties in forming lasting, meaningful relationships.

Decreased Cognitive Performance

Research suggests that children exposed to parental conflict may have decreased cognitive performance. This can affect their ability to concentrate and learn effectively at school, which can have long-term implications for their academic and professional success.

Higher Rates of Behavior Problems

Children exposed to frequent parental conflict may also experience behavior problems such as aggression, anxiety, and depression. These issues can affect their social and emotional development, making it harder for them to navigate relationships and life challenges.

Increased Risk of Eating Disorders

Children exposed to parental conflict may also have a higher risk of developing eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia. The stress and anxiety caused by the conflict can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms, including disordered eating.

Higher Rates of Adolescent Substance Abuse

Children exposed to parental conflict may also be at higher risk of developing substance abuse problems later in life. The emotional turmoil caused by parental conflict can lead to depression and anxiety, which can increase the likelihood of turning to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism.

Higher Risk of Academic Problems:

Children exposed to parental conflict may also struggle academically. The emotional toll of the conflict can make it difficult for them to concentrate and learn effectively, leading to poor academic performance and reduced opportunities for future success.

When Fighting Becomes Problematic:

It’s important to recognize when parental conflict becomes problematic and starts to have a negative impact on a child’s mental health. Frequent and intense arguments, aggressive behavior, and physical violence are all red flags that require intervention.

Neutralize the Effect of Parents Fighting:

While it’s not always possible to avoid conflict altogether, there are ways to neutralize the impact of parental conflict on a child’s mental health. One effective approach is to provide a supportive, nurturing environment that helps children feel safe and secure.

Avoiding Conflict is Not a Solution:

Avoiding conflict altogether is not a solution either. Conflict is a natural part of any relationship, and it’s important for children to learn how to handle conflict in healthy ways. When handled correctly, conflict can actually help children develop resilience and problem-solving skills.

How to Make Conflict Work?

The key is to learn how to make conflict work in a positive way. This includes learning effective communication skills, practicing active listening, and finding constructive ways to resolve disagreements. Counseling or therapy can be a helpful resource for families struggling to navigate conflict.

Are Kids Better Off in Two-Parent Families?

Research suggests that children who grow up in stable, two-parent households tend to have better mental health outcomes than those who grow up in single-parent or blended families. However, it’s important to note that the quality of the relationship between parents is more important than the structure of the family itself. A stable, loving relationship between parents can provide a safe and nurturing environment for a child, while a volatile or hostile relationship can have negative consequences.


Parental conflict can have a significant impact on a child’s mental health, with potential long-term consequences. It’s important for parents to recognize the impact of their behavior on their children and take steps to reduce conflict and create a safe, supportive environment. This can include learning healthy communication and conflict resolution skills, seeking professional help when needed, and focusing on providing a stable and nurturing home environment. By doing so, parents can help their children develop the resilience and emotional wellbeing needed to thrive in all areas of life.