Money stress amps impact of fighting parents on kids

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When parents can’t resolve their differences in a peaceful way, it can threaten children’s emotional security, research finds.

This is especially true for low-income families dealing with stress and finances, according to the study.

On the other hand, when parents listen or use humor to resolve conflicts, their children report fewer emotional and behavior problems.

Not surprisingly, if fighting parents become verbally aggressive and blame or put down each other, children feel less confident in their parents’ ability to provide support and protection and they may have more emotional and behavior problems, says Joyce Lee, a doctoral student in social work and psychology at the University of Michigan. Lee is lead author of a paper on the findings in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

Parent conflicts affect families from all socioeconomic backgrounds, but the rates tend to be higher in low-income households that deal with poverty, stress, and unemployment, according to the study.

Researchers asked nearly 1,300 low-income, unmarried mothers in eight US cities about their children’s behavior when conflict with the child’s father arises. In order to answer the conflict questions, couples needed some contact with each other—at the minimum, a few times a month.

Respondents also disclosed if domestic violence occurred in the home. About 17 percent of the mothers reported abuse.

The findings indicate that multiple forms of conflict between parents play different roles in children’s developmental outcomes, suggesting that clinical interventions focusing on parent education should target child emotional security.

Additional coauthors are from the University of Michigan and the University of Denver.

Source: University of Michigan