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Parents' Fighting May Have Long-Lasting Effect on Kids
Date:6/16/2012

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, June 15 (HealthDay News) -- Slamming doors, shouting and stony silences between mom and dad can really scar kids emotionally, new research suggests.

Kindergarteners whose parents fought with each other frequently and harshly were more likely to grow into emotionally insecure older children who struggled with depression, anxiety and behavior issues by 7th grade, the study authors found.

And yet, the researchers said, not all conflict was troublesome to children. If parents refrained from harshly criticizing one other, stonewalling one another or being violent with one another, and instead managed to work out their problems in a constructive way, children weren't terribly bothered by the conflicts.

The key to keeping kids well-adjusted isn't having a perfect, conflict-free marriage, the study authors said. It's in being able to control emotions enough to fight fair, and resolve conflicts in a way that doesn't threaten the stability of the family, they explained.

"Problems occur every day. But if parents problem solve and try to work it out, if they come up with a resolution or work toward it, if the parents show positive emotion when they are in the middle of fighting, if they say nice things to each other or are affectionate, kids see all these things as very positive, and it changes how kids see the conflict," said study author E. Mark Cummings, a professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.

The study, published in the journal Child Development, included 235 middle-class families (average family income between $40,000 and $60,000) from the Midwest and Northeast United States.

When the children were in kindergarten, parents were asked about their level of marital conflict. Parents were also asked to discuss a potentially contentious topic, such as finances or parenting, while researchers rated how critical they
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