Do you know the effects of parents fighting on teenagers?
If teenagers and children witness arguments and conflict from their parents or guardians, this can lead to lasting mental effects, not to mention more immediate anxieties and pressures at school and in their social lives. The relationship between parents is one of the more important influences on a child’s emotional health. A happy, healthy family dynamic is best for a teenagers wellbeing. That’s not to say that all arguments are bad; mature conversations can guide a teenager in how to deal with future disagreements and misunderstandings the right way. Physical intimidation, violence, bullying, insults and other more insidious tactics, however, will leave long-lasting effects which can be severe. Here we look at some of the ways fighting between parents can affect teenagers.
Nature and Nurture
We’ve all heard that nature plays its genetic part in mental health and depression in particular, but emotional stresses in childhood and teenage life (nurture) can also leave lasting damage on teenagers. In fact, a study revealed that although divorce is linked to teenage depression and anxiety disorders, it is actually those arguments that lead up to and surround a divorce that cause lasting damage.
In cases where genetics have impacted teenage mental health, a positive home environment helps keep underlying conditions at bay, by creating a supportive relationship for the teenager. The scientific and mental health community agree that the relationship between parents is vital and has a significant impact on teenage health. So how does parents fighting affect a teenager specifically?
Social and emotional skills
Parents arguing, bickering and getting at each other constantly deeply affects a teenager’s mental health, leading to a host of social and emotional issues. These can be seen as inward disorders (such as depression, self-doubt and social anxiety) or as outward oriented symptoms (such as hostility or aggression to others). Teenagers are more likely to copy what they see in their adolescence or act reactively at school, internalising their problems and repeating conflict in their own relationships. Teenagers feel depressed, sad and distressed among their friends, withdrawing from their social life and unable to concentrate.
Arguing parents and conflict can affect a teenager’s academic performance at a critical moment in their school and college lives, particularly if they do not have an outlet or support network. Teenagers tend to brew over their parental problems, feeling at fault and finding it difficult to concentrate on their classwork or develop social skills at school. As such, conflict between parents can drastically reduce a teenager’s future life chances of doing well in exams or at work. Yet it’s not only limited to teenage life, an Australian study found that children as young as 6 have poorer school performances because of problems at home.
The relationship between children and their fathers has been shown to suffer worse through home conflict. This means that if a father is having more frequent difficulties in their marriage and arguing with their wife in front of their teenager, this can also reflect in their relationship with their child. Mums seem to be better at preventing this conflict from spilling over. This leads to strained relationships and the development of parental factions.
The most alarming statistic is the potential for mental issues such as depression, substance abuses and, at worst, suicidal thoughts, feelings and actions in teenagers whose parents argue. Many organizations concern about this issue and have long campaigned for awareness of the links between both parent-child and parent-parent conflict on suicide, revealing one of the more drastic consequences of a poor home environment.
Given that inter-parental conflict has such significant and damaging consequences, more emphasis needs to be placed on teaching teenagers to deal and prepare with conflict in life. Services also need to be provided appropriately to deal with therapy and awareness between both couples and their children.
The use of a helpline and teenage counsellors can offer the teenager some respite and an avenue through which to seek help, but real prevention needs to be done by mending and making parents aware of the consequences of their arguing and conflict at home.
This article come courtesy of Kids Helpline, an Australia’s only free, private and confidential 24/7 phone and online counselling service for young people.