Is it healthy to argue in front of your children?

Is it healthy to argue in front of your children?

Legal Clerk and Family Mediator, Richard Perry, takes a look at a recent article in The Telegraph about what effect parents arguing in front of their children can have.

I’ve always held the view that full blown arguments between parents in front of children are likely to be upsetting and harmful for them.

One of my recurring concerns over many years of dealing with Family Law is that in volatile relationships where there are heated verbal exchanges, or physical assaults, children can often be dragged into taking sides which can’t be a healthy situation for them.

As well as news of Hollywood actress Laura Dern’s public advocacy of fighting in front of children, this recent article in The Telegraph includes the results of a study published earlier this year by the University of East Anglia.

The study involved ‘scanning the brains of 58 teenagers aged 17 to 19, and asked their parents to recall any family negativity between the child’s birth and the age of 11 (such as raised voices, aggression, or physical violence).’ The results agree that arguing in front of children is unhealthy for them, and can even lead to problems such as impaired learning, anxiety, schizophrenia, depression and bipolar.

Christina Hopkinson, author of The A-List Family, comments:

“I don't think couples should argue in front of anyone but each other… It's not so much the fact that they argue - we all do - but that they've lost sight of what's acceptable that they no longer make any attempt to hide their quarrels.”

Dr Helen Rodwell, a consultant clinical psychologist specialising in families dealing with domestic violence, had this to say on the issue:

“Even a baby or toddler will react to loud voices or anger. But they won’t understand the family culture enough to know whether it’s a safe situation, or not – whether the argument is a rare occurrence, or a regular thing.”

The article also provides some useful insight and guidelines that may be helpful. Click here to read the full article, find out more about the study and join the debate.

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