Identify A True Statement About Parenting – When I was a kid, my parents’ fights could suck oxygen out of a room. My mother verbally abused my father, she broke jam jars and made strange threats. The shots of her made me freeze. When my father ran away for work, to the garage or to the woods, I felt vulnerable. Years later, when my husband and I decided to have children, I decided never to fight in front of them.
“Children are like emotional Geiger counters,” says E. Mark Cummings, a psychologist at the University of Notre Dame who has published hundreds of articles on the subject with his colleagues over twenty years. Children pay close attention to their parents’ emotions to gain insight into how safe they are in the family, Cummings says. When parents are destructive, the damage to their children can last a lifetime.
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As a developmental psychologist, I knew marital conflict was inevitable, but I also knew there had to be a better way to deal with it. Cummings states: “Conflict is a normal part of everyday experience, so quarrels between parents are not important. It is the expression and resolution of conflicts and above all.
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Which has important consequences for children ”. Seeing certain types of conflict can also be good for children – when children see their parents facing difficult problems, Cummings says, they can thrive.
Cummings and colleague Patrick Davis of the University of Rochester identify the types of destructive tactics parents use among themselves to harm children: verbal aggression, such as insults, insults, and threats of abandonment; physical aggression such as hitting and pushing; silent tactics such as avoidance, withdrawal, fatigue, or withdrawal; Or capitulation: giving up may seem like a solution, but it’s not true.
When parents repeatedly use hostile strategies to each other, some children can become tired, anxious, worried and hopeless. Others may react externally with anger, become aggressive, and develop behavioral problems at home and at school. Babies can develop sleep disturbances and health problems such as headaches and stomach pains, or they can get sick frequently. Their stress can interfere with their ability to pay attention and create learning and academic problems in school. Most children raised in a destructive conflict environment have problems establishing healthy, balanced relationships with their peers. Relationships between siblings can also be negatively affected: they can become overly involved and protective of each other, or distant and withdrawn.
Some studies suggest that babies as young as six months register their parents’ distress. Studies that follow children over long periods of time show that children who were exposed to parental conflict in kindergarten were more likely to have adjustment problems in the seventh year. A recent study found that even 19-year-olds are susceptible to parental conflict. Contrary to what one might hope, “babies don’t fit in with it,” Cummings says.
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In 2002, UCLA researchers Rena Repetti, Shelley Taylor and Theresa Seaman looked at 47 studies linking children’s experiences in risky family environments to later problems in adulthood. They found that those who grew up in families with high levels of conflict experienced more physical health problems, emotional problems, and social problems later on than the control groups. As adults, they were more likely to report vascular and immune problems, depression and emotional reactivity, substance addiction, loneliness, and intimacy problems.
Some parents may feel they can avoid the impact on their children by giving in to argument or capitulating. But this is not an effective tactic. “We did some research on this,” Cummings said. According to parents’ notes on their quarrels at home and their children’s reactions, the children’s emotional reactions to the capitulation “were not positive”. Non-verbal anger and “failing” – the refusal to communicate or cooperate – are particularly problematic.
“Our research shows that the long-term effects of parental withdrawal are actually more distressing for children’s adaptation [than open conflict],” Cummings says. because “Children understand hostility,” he explains, “it tells them what’s going on and they can work on it. But when parents withdraw and become emotionally unavailable, children don’t know what’s going on. They just know things aren’t right. Over time, we see that withdrawal is actually a worse trajectory for children. And it is also more difficult for family relationships. “
Children are sophisticated conflict analysts; The degree of expression of emotions is much more subtle than parents can imagine. “When parents go behind closed doors and act like they’re doing it, kids can detect it,” Cummings says. They will see that you are pretending. And the claim is a little worse. As a couple, you can’t fix a fight you don’t admit to having. The kids will know, you will know, but nothing will happen in terms of progress.
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On the other hand, she says, “When parents go behind closed doors and don’t get angry when they go out, the kids think everything is fine. Children can distinguish between a forced resolution and a resolution with positive emotions, and this is important. “
Researchers use several methods to see how parental conflicts affect their children, at home and in the laboratory. At home, parents are taught to keep records or journals of their struggles, including when they fought, what they fought for, what strategies they used, and how they thought their children reacted. Parents are recorded and their strategies analyzed when discussing a difficult topic in the lab. Children are shown videotapes of conflicts between adults or even between their parents and are asked to react: how would you feel if your parents behaved this way; How would you describe what your parents do? Some studies also collect information from teachers, school records, or even record children’s physiological responses when they watch videos of teenagers or their parents arguing.
In a 20-year historical study of interparental conflict and childhood stress, anthropologists Mark Flynn and Barry English analyzed samples of the stress hormone cortisol as children in a village on the east coast of the Caribbean island of Dominica. Children who lived with parents who quarreled and quarreled constantly had higher average cortisol levels than children who lived in quieter families. As a result, they often got tired and sick, played less and slept poorly. In general, children never get used or “get used” to family stress. Conversely, when children experienced particularly calm or loving contact, their cortisol decreased. Studies in both animals and humans have shown that chronic activation of the stress response can alter the architecture of the developing brain: activating or deactivating genes that regulate stress; damage to the hippocampus, which can cause learning and memory disorders, as well as stress responses; and interfere with brain myelination, which affects the quality of nerve signal transmission.
“Some types of conflict aren’t bothersome to kids and kids really like it,” Cummings says. When parents experience mild to moderate conflict that includes support, compromise, and positive emotions, children develop better social skills and self-esteem, enjoy greater emotional security, develop better relationships with parents, do better in school, and have fewer problems. psychological.
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“When children witness a fight and see their parents leave, they are actually happier than if they had seen it,” Cummings says. “Reassure children that parents can solve problems. We know this from the feelings they show, the things they say, and the way they run and play. Constructive conflict is associated with better outcomes over time.”
Even if the parents do not completely solve the problem, but partially find a solution, the children behave well. “Compromise is best, but we have a lot of research showing that children benefit from any progress towards a solution,” Cummings says.
According to Sheri Gluckoft Wong, a family therapist in Berkeley, California, just having children causes more conflict even for couples who are doing well as parents. “When the children arrive, there is less time to do more,” she says. “Suddenly you are not that patient, you are not that flexible and it seems there is more to be done. People who make this adjustment are talking about it successfully. They express the implicit. Be compassionate,” she adds.
“I’ve been in family therapy for four decades and digital issues have really added new challenges to families,” says Gluckoft Wong. “How much screen time is good, if the kids can text in the car, the expectation of an instant connection and the frustration when someone doesn’t answer the call right away. Time for couple bonding is shrinking as partners spend more time online, dinnertime conversations are cut short for fact-checking, and entertainment is constantly available. A new label is under development “.
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According to Gluckoft Wong, “room problems” is the second big category: who does what, when; arrival and departure; Time to go to sleep, settle down and find time for the parents to bond. Finally, there are the usual issues of money, in-laws, friends, values, parenting, discipline and roles.
Researcher Cummings and therapist Gluckoft Wong are cautious. Cummings: “You have to be careful
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