CHICAGO, ILLINOIS — Kids’ emotional security becomes threatened when their parents can’t resolve their differences peacefully, especially in low-income households dealing with stress and finances, a study of the University of Michigan posted on its website Thursday showed.
The study, conducted in eight U.S. cities, asked nearly 1,300 low-income, unmarried mothers about their children’s behavior when conflict with the child’s father arises.
Respondents also disclosed if domestic violence occurred in the home, about 17 percent of the mothers reported that the abuse happened.
The study found that if parents become verbally aggressive with blaming and putdowns of each other, children had more emotional and behavior problems as their confidence erodes in their parents’ ability to provide support and protection, said lead author Joyce Lee, a UM doctoral student in social work and psychology.
While families from all socioeconomic backgrounds are affected by parental conflict, the rates tend to be higher in low-income households that deal with poverty, stress and unemployment.
The study also found that when parents listen or use humor to resolve conflicts, their children report fewer emotional and behavior problems.
The findings indicate that multiple forms of conflict between parents play different roles in children’s developmental outcomes, which suggest that child emotional security may be an important target for clinical interventions focusing on parent education.
The study has been published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.