Aggression between parents harms children’s ability to regulate and recognise emotions

Aggression between parents harms children’s ability to regulate and recognise emotions

According to a longitudinal study led by New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, children’s exposure to verbal and physical aggression between parents “may hurt a child’s ability to identify and control emotions”.

Considering the ways that protracted exposure to verbal and physical aggression between parents may have on their children, the study followed 1,025 children from six to 58 months of age. The study included exposure to chronic poverty from infancy to early childhood as well as multiple measures of “household chaos” or adversity as predictors of children’s ability to identify and control their own emotions.

The research demonstrated that exposure to conflict and violence in the home can “shape children’s neurobiological, cognitive, and behavioural responses”, said the report.

Professor of applied psychology at NYU, C. Cybele Raver, said: “Arguing and fighting is psychologically stressful for the adults caught in conflict; this study demonstrates the cost of that conflict for children in the household as well.”

Findings also suggest that prolonged exposure to both verbal and physical aggression may heighten a children’s hypervigilance, which may support its safety in the short term, yet could be detrimental for the child’s long-term emotional adjustment.

“This study shines a bright light on the importance of supporting parents as they navigate the ups and downs of partnership or marriage,” explained Raver. “Parents need help regulating their own feelings of anger, frustration and worry when balancing the demands of work, family and romantic partnership, especially when money is tight.”

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