Researchers at the universities of Notre Dame, Rochester (NY) and Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. have found that the way parents handle everyday conflicts between themselves affects the emotional development of the children. This report on the impact of parental behavior on the psyche of their children is detailed in the January/February 2006 issue of the journal Child Development.
"A useful analogy is to think about emotional security as a bridge between the child and the world. When the marital relationship is functioning well, it serves as a secure base, a structurally sound bridge to support the child's exploration and relationships with others," said lead researcher Mark Cummings, Ph.D., professor and Notre Dame Chair in Psychology of the Psychology Department of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.
"When destructive marital conflict erodes the bridge, children may lack confidence and become hesitant to move forward, or may move forward in a dysregulated way, unable to find appropriate footing within themselves or in interaction with others." The researchers arrived at these conclusions after conducting two separate studies on the subject. In the first study, 226 parents and their 9- to-18-year-old children were monitored for over three years. The researchers examined the impact of marital problems on the children and found that these problems led to emotional insecurity and conflicts in children. In the second study 232 parents and much younger children were tracked. They again found that children's emotional security was related to a happy marital life. "This study is a warning to strongly encourage parents to learn how to handle conflicts constructively for the sake of both their children and themselves," Dr Cummings said.
Main Article Child Development, Vol. 77, Issue 1, Interparental Discord and Child Adjustment: Prospective Investigations of Emotional Security as an Explanatory Mechanism. By Cummings EM, Schermerhorn AC (both of the University of Notre Dame), Davies PT (University of Rochester), Goeke-Morey MC (Catholic University of America), and Cummings JS (University of Notre Dame). Copyright 2006 The Society for Research in Child Development, Inc
Society for Research in Child Development