We all know that parents arguing is not a great thing, especially if it happens in front of their children. New research from the University of Rochester, Syracuse University and University of Notre Dame, however, is showing that parental conflict may also affect how children perform in school. One recent study followed 216 6-year-olds over a period of three years. The children's teachers were asked about the kids' behavior at school such as interaction with peers, participation in classroom activities, and following teacher's instructions. As part of the study, the children were also asked about their worries and thoughts about how their parents got along. Here are the major results:
- child who reported more negative thoughts/worries about their parents getting along had more attention problems
- children with more attention problems were more likely to have more problems in school (as reported by teachers) the same year and one year later
- the authors report that many of the children's worries were based on witnessing their parents relationship problems
So what does this really mean? Well, it seems that kids who witness their parents' disagreements on a regular basis are, not surprisingly, troubled by this conflict. They worry and think about these conflicts as a way of coping. While this worry may serve to help them cope, it also seems that it may make it hard for them to concentrate on school-related tasks.
I found this study interesting because although we all know that parental conflict isn't good for kids, this study examined why and how this is the case. It's not just seeing the conflict that is harmful, but it causes kids to worry so much that it interferes with their ability to concentrate on school. Kids are people too! We find it hard to concentrate on work when we're upset about something and they do too.
Reference: Child Development, vol. 79, issue 5. Children's Insecure Representations of the Interparental Relationship and their School Adjustment: The Mediating Role of Attention Difficulties. Davies, P.T., Woitach, M.J. (University of Rochester), Winter, M.A. (Syracuse University), and Cummings, E.M. (University of Notre Dame).