When parents repeatedly use hostile strategies with each other, some children can become distraught, worried, anxious, and hopeless. Others may react outwardly with anger, becoming aggressive and developing behavior problems at home and at school. Children can develop sleep disturbances and health problems like headaches and stomachaches, or they may get sick frequently. Their stress can interfere with their ability to pay attention, which creates learning and academic problems at school. Most children raised in environments of destructive conflict have problems forming healthy, balanced relationships with their peers. Even sibling relationships are adversely affected—they tend to go to extremes, becoming over-involved and over-protective of each other, or distant and disengaged.
In their book 'Marital Conflict and Children: An Emotional Security Perspective', E. Mark Cummings, psychologist at Notre Dame University and colleague Patrick Davies at the University of Rochester identify the kinds of destructive tactics that parents use with each other that harm children:
*Verbal aggression like name-calling, insults, and threats of abandonment.
*Physical aggression like hitting and pushing.
*Silent tactics like avoidance, walking out, sulking, or withdrawing.
*Capitulation—giving in that might look like a solution but isn’t a true one.
Some research suggests that children as young as six months register their parents’ distress. Studies that follow children over a long period of time show that children who were insecure in kindergarten because of their parents’ conflicts were more likely to have adjustment problems in the seventh grade. A recent study showed that even 19-year-olds remained sensitive to parental conflict, quotes Cummings.
The researchers also warns that avoiding the conflict is not the ideal solution to the problem. The couple should, instead, confront the problem together and find a practical solution to it together, which should be convenient for both the persons. The discussion should be constructive in all its phases.