How Parents' Conflict Affects Children

No one gets along 100 percent of the time, including parents. Whether you are married, separated or divorced, having kids affects your relationship in many ways and conflict between the two of you affects your kids in the same number of ways. Even if you think you are doing a stellar job hiding your conflicts from your kids, chances are you are not. Your parenting abilities are affected by your conflicts, which means you might be hindering your children’s development.

Behaviorial Effects

According to child psychotherapist Yisroel Roll writing at, your child’s behavior is often negatively affected by your conflict with the other parent. For example, if you are married and fight constantly or you are divorced and it’s not amicable, your child might begin to act out as a result of the conflict he continuously witnesses. He might become disrespectful, defiant and rude. Roll said he believes this change in behavior is to get your attention in the hopes that you will have no choice but to work together to help him, and possibly overcome your differences.

Psychological Effects

Researchers at the University of Rochester performed a three-year study in 2006 on the psychological effects of parental conflict on 6-year-old children 2. According to the study, children whose fathers behaved differently toward them because of parental conflict, particularly in regards to his warmness, his involvement and his support, tend to have more psychological issues than children whose parents are not in the midst of conflict 2. Those psychological issues include anxiety, depression and withdrawal.


Children whose parents fight often blame themselves for their problems. According to Roll, your child might feel guilty about your conflict even if it has nothing to do with him. The more he hears you fight, the more he'll believe that something he did has caused the fight and that it's his fault. This type of blame can have lasting negative effects on his future relationships, his personality and his behavior.

Emotional Security

According to Mark E. Cummings, professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame, your parental conflicts can have a lasting negative effect on your child’s emotional security. When you fight, she no longer feels secure in her life, Cummings said in a 2012 article at the U.S. News & World Report Health website. This can affect her self-esteem, her confidence and her ability to feel safe and loved. Emotional insecurity can lead to behavioral and psychological problems.