When kids witness mild to moderate conflict that involves support, compromise, and positive emotions at home, they learn better social skills, self-esteem, and emotional security, which can help parent-child relations and how well they do in school, E. Mark Cummings, a developmental psychologist at Notre Dame University, told Developmental Science.
“When kids witness a fight and see the parents resolving it, they’re actually happier than they were before they saw it,” he said. “It reassures kids that parents can work things through.”
Cummings said kids pick up on when a parent is giving in to avoid a fight or refusing to communicate, and their own emotional response is not positive.
“Our studies have shown that the long-term effects of parental withdrawal are actually more disturbing to kids’ adjustment than open conflict,” he said. He explains the children in this instance can perceive that something is wrong, which leads to stress, but they don’t understand what or why, which means it’s harder for them to adjust.
Chronic stress from repeated exposure to destructive conflict can result in kids that are worried, anxious, hopeless, angry, aggressive, behaviorally-challenged, sickly, tired, and struggling academically.
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