Interesting new research suggests that arguing doesn’t have to mean that children suffer if couples take action to ‘argue better’.

Conflict and feuds are a normal part of being in a relationship and research shows that family relationship patterns can be passed on from one generation to the next, so it’s important to be aware of ways to ensure they are less harmful.

The review, Parental Conflict: Outcomes and Interventions for Children and Families examines the differences between ‘destructive’ and ‘constructive’ conflict and how both kinds affect children, why some children are more adversely affected than others. It features the latest evidence on how conflicts impacts on child physiology and interventions to help couples in conflict.

It shows that conflict can affect family life by influencing the way couples parent, as well as how children understand and make sense of this conflict.

Destructive conflict such as sulking, walking away, slamming doors or making children the focus of an argument can have a detrimental impact on their development.

Children exposed to such conflict between parents are at a greater risk of a range of negative outcomes including social, emotional and behavioural difficulties. However, children react better when parents can relate to each other more positively during arguments, and when conflicts are resolved.

‘Practitioners and those working regularly with parents are in a key position to identify families in need’
Co-author Professor Gordon Harold, Andrew and Virginia Rudd Professor of Psychology at the University of Sussex said: ‘Today’s children are tomorrow’s parents.

‘The psychological fallout from homes marked by high levels of inter-parental conflict can lead to negative behaviour and long-term mental health problems that repeat across generations.

Parental Conflict: Outcomes and Interventions for Children and Families, the first book in the Understanding and Strengthening Relationships series published by Policy Press in association with OnePlusOne retails at £16.99.

The research has been commissioned by the Department for Education to lead a high-profile campaign to encourage couples to see seeking support as normal in strengthening their relationship. The UK charity OnePlusOne will be working with experts to create online spaces where couples can find tools to help them.

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