Wednesday, March 20, 2019 | ePaper

Fight in front of kids can scar them for life

Regular fighting between parents can affect their children's long-term mental health and expose them to a number of diseases in the future.

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Weekend Plus Desk :
Anyone who has grown up with their parents constantly fighting with each other knows the pain and emotional distress their verbal duels can cause.
Their constant bickerings and shouting matches can affect their children's long-term mental health and development and leave them - infants, children as well as teenagers - disillusioned, angry, and emotionally vulnerable.
Even sleeping babies, research shows, can sense their parents' bickering and show increased levels of stress when they hear angry voices.
Mental health, diseases
Studies have shown parents' arguments can prove more damaging to a child's mental health than their separation or divorce.
A recent study by the University of Sussex in the UK and the Early Intervention Foundation found that children's exposure to conflict between parents can put their long-term mental health and life chances at risk.
Studies have also shown that stress during childhood can also expose them to diseases in adulthood like diabetes, heart problems, low immunity and asthma.
"Parental discord can cause severe emotional damage to the child who witnesses such quarrels on a regular basis. The more severe and serious the nature of arguments, the more serious is the emotional turmoil inside the child," explains Dr. Ripan Sippy, clinical and child psychologist based in Delhi.
Dr. Sippy says children exposed to regular conflicts between parents develop behavioural, emotional and adjustment problems, and often vent out their repressed feelings of fear, anger and sadness in the form of bullying others, being aggressive and stubborn, disobedient, fearful or timid, and so on.
"Some children may also develop anti-social and criminal behaviours such as bunking school, disregard for rights of others, lying, stealing, cheating, addictions to nicotine/alcohol, gambling, excessive social networking/video gaming, excessive involvements with friends, staying outside home excessively and eve-teasing," he adds.
They also tend to be abusive, aggressive and vocal in their approach rather than being understanding when they are in conflict with someone as they unknowingly imitate what they observe.
Gauging the problem
Parents, doctors say, fail to realise the negative effect their fights can have on children.
"In most of the cases, if a parent is impulsive or has anger issues, he or she may not realise that his/her actions may lead to a lot of psychological damage to the child. Along with this, lack of insight that what we are doing in front of the child can have harmful consequences adds to the problems," Dr. Deepali Batra, clinical and child psychologist, says.
"Parents usually blame each other for the negative consequences, but don't seek professional help. Because of the stigma attached people avoid meeting a mental health professional," she says.
Broken relationships
Frequent quarrels between parents can result in a strained relationship with their child, especially when they are pulled into the argument and made to take sides. The pressure to take sides can also cause emotional stress and anger for the child.
"Children at times pick sides on who is correct and who is not and hence may develop feelings of dislike or communication gap with the parent he/she holds as responsible for the conflicts," explains Dr Sippy.
Dr. Nisha Khanna, Delhi-based relationship and marriage counsellor, adds when one parent shares his/her emotional problems or grievances against the other partner with the child, it is natural for the child to get biased.
"The child doesn't get the chance to hear the other side of the story. If one parent is spending more time and interacting more with the child, the inclination will be more towards that parent," she says.
A child may also develop a resentment towards both the parents and withdraw from the family to avoid conflicts at home.
Shaping the future
Early childhood experiences shape our personality as adults, including our ability to develop healthy romantic relationships in the future.
How parents interact with each other or handle a conflict rub off on their children and this, in turn, influences the child's approach or behaviour towards their partner in the future.

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