A study says that marital discord between parents, especially during kindergarten years, is long lasting and can cause emotional problems during adolescence.
"The results further highlight the possibility that there will be persistent negative effects of children's early experiences when there is conflict between their parents, at least when their emotional insecurity increases as a result of the conflict," says E. Mark Cummings, professor of psychology at the Notre Dame University, who led the study.
Cummings and colleagues examined 235 primarily middle-class mothers, fathers, and children over seven years, focusing on the links between marital conflict when the children were in kindergarten, children's emotional insecurity in the early school years, and subsequent problems when the children were teens, the journal Child Development reports.
Children's emotional security is related to their sense of protection, safety, and security, and has implications for how they do socially and emotionally. Researchers observed parents discussing a topic they had identified as hard to handle, rating specific conflict behaviours. They also asked parents to report on their conflicts, according to a Notre Dame statement.
The study found that conflict between parents when their children are young predicted children's emotional insecurity later in childhood, which, in turn, predicted adjustment problems in adolescence, including depression and anxiety.