Young kids are damaged most by splitting parents arguing
According the new research coming out of Notre Dame University, kindergarten-aged children are the most susceptible depression, anxiety and behavioral problems as adolescents when divorcing parent fight in front of them. The key to the findings is that the negative arguments, instead of calm, rational ones, harm the child the most.
"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," according to lead researcher Mark Cummings, who is also Notre Dame Endowed Chair in Psychology.
However, not all children of divorce in the kindergarten age range end up with the same issues later on in life. When parents decide to use what the researchers call "constructive conflict," which is the use of "support, verbal and physical affection, problem-solving and resolution," for example, the children in the same age group elicit positive emotional reactions. Cummings sites the study's findings that suggest the arguing harms the child's sense of sense of protection, safety and security in the home.
"Emotional insecurity appears to be an explanation for the effects of marital conflict on children's later problems," Cummings explained. "This mechanism lasts across relatively long periods of time and across the transition between childhood and adolescence."