STOP fighting, marital conflicts impact your children!

Published: November 27, 2013

Storming off in anger never solves any marital issues and neither does name calling, hurling insults or bringing up stories from the past.

Imagine a wrestling match – the referees run around the ring, give signals to wrestlers, all the while being on the receiving end of a never-ending stream of abuse from both wrestlers. Now, imagine a child who lost the genetic lottery and ended up with parents who constantly quarrel. I would think that such a child would be subject to a similar amount of stress and anxiety to that experienced by WWE referees.

Most couples have probably been through the experience of being in a heated negotiation when they suddenly looked around to find their child standing wide-eyed in a corner of the room, listening timidly to the harsh dialogue being exchanged between the parents. On the other hand, teenage children often tend to act as referees, trying to ensure that the argument ends quickly.

The question is whether arguing in front of kids is okay? If not, then why?

Pakistan is going through a major socio-demographic and epidemiological transition with consequent fluctuations in health scenario due to growth in social development amidst political variations. With a population of over a billion and an insecure law and order condition, mental health affects each one of us.

According to a mental health survey, 30-40% of people in Karachi suffer from common mental disorders (CMD). Moreover, most of these common mental disorders have been found to be co-related to marital problems.

In order to try to decrease these figures, it is imperative to first recognise mental health disorders as a public health concern which affects a significant proportion of the population. Even if mental health gains the government’s undivided attention, our behaviour and reactions to certain events need enormous improvement; for instance, parents quarrelling in front of their children has become a dilemma all over the world.

The status of parents in Pakistan is second only to God, which is dictated by the doctrines of Islam. Couples that fight and yell at each other in the presence of their children usually end up causing emotional and behavioural damage to their children’s future lives.

These children may or may not recover from such damage.

Exposure to marital conflicts has been connected to depression, anxiety and behavioural disorders in children, the effects of which can continue into their adult life as well. Many people define the ‘golden rule’ for marital conflicts to be that parents should avoid arguing in front of their children. However, the fact is that conflicts themselves are seldom the cause of terror for children; rather, it is the way in which these conflicts are addressed that causes psychological trauma.

The emotional insecurity that arises in children as a result of marital conflict, can affect how they regulate their own emotional arousal and their response when faced with conflict in their own marital lives. Constant exposure to marital conflict, condition similar responses in children and develop internalised representations of parental relations which has long-term impact on children.

There is no problem with arguments themselves. After all, no two people are alike and having differing points of view is but natural. However, arguing should be done in a constructive manner and parents should disagree with each other respectfully. In doing so, parents can impart one of the great skills to their children, which is that of conflict resolution – which will help children build better relationships in the future.

Storming off in anger never solves any issues and neither does name calling, hurling insults, venting resentments and bringing up stories from the past.

Learn to tone it down.

Avoid pointing fingers while arguing and most importantly, learn to let go.

Children find it very difficult to cope in a home environment where the parents are always at loggerheads. Some suffer sustained emotional maturity delays or disruptions while others experience difficulties in their academic and social lives. Such incidents often leave children wary of pursuing or committing to relationships themselves. They are likely to develop emotional insecurities which can cause them to bully their own partners later in life. You cannot really blame them because this is what they have understood marital life to be from seeing their own parents.

On the other hand, some children hold themselves responsible for the arguments between their parents and they spend their entire lives wearing this guilt on their sleeves. This attitude of self-hate can have an impact on their professional, social and marital lives.

If you find yourself fighting with your partner in front of your children, it is important to reassure them that the quarrel is temporary and that you are both trying to work out a solution. There is no doubt that clashes occur every day. However, if parents try to work it out, if they show positive emotions while in the midst of an argument, if they try to be affectionate, it is likely that children will see the disagreement in a positive light and it will change how they perceive the conflict.

However, if conflicts remain unresolved and continue to spiral upwards, consider visiting a marriage therapist who can counsel you and your partner in the effective strategies to avoid disastrous fights.

Think of it as an investment in protecting your child’s social, emotional, professional and marital future.


Rakshinda Mujeeb

Researcher by profession, writer by choice. She also works as a content writer for an NGO. She enjoys the impact her articles have on readers.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Pappu


  • silent observer

    Spot on Rakshinda….very nicely writtenRecommend

  • Asim

    well written!!!Recommend

  • ana

    dilemma of 98% of pakistani families.
    …………….keep writing on these issues gud attempt rakshindaRecommend

  • Parvez

    The few minutes spent reading you……….is time well spent.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    I’m sure the author’s heart is in the right place, but does she truly believe that the dynamics of marital conflict are this simple?

    Blog: “Hey parents! Stop fighting! Be respectful!”
    Parents: “Golly, that never occurred to us! Thank you!”

    If the point was for parents to not fight ‘in front of the kids’, that’s as good an advice as any. The problem is, though, that if you have two people who despise each other, living under one roof simply because divorce is a taboo, things are likely to keep deteriorating. Sometimes, a relationship just doesn’t work out. That is natural.Recommend

  • Iftikhar Ali

    God bless youRecommend

  • spare me

    Best solutin dont marry huh! Recommend

  • ft28

    My parents had a very happy, stable and loving marriage. However, I find relationships very difficult and have always faced conflicts, fights and emotional instability in my relationships. My marriage is also rocky with constant strife, emotional and mental trauma. I have a six year old son and he is the most good natured, loving child imaginable- although as a mother, I am probably biased but others say it as well. Maybe he will turn out a well rounded individual who swears never to get caught up in marriage such as his parents had.Recommend

  • Melody

    finally some thing that is important to address. If you think its not a big deal but when you look deeper then you realize how important this is! parents spend so much on children’s schooling and other things but they neglect their emotional security handling. Awesome read.Recommend

  • Owais

    super read. A good attempt towards better parentingRecommend

  • Necromancer

    The status of parents in Pakistan is second only to God, which is dictated by the doctrines of Islam.
    This should change in Pakistan, We should love our parents regardless of religious doctrines.
    and for parents love your child as he/she is and try to make them a better civilized human bieng.Recommend

  • Ainee

    reading this i realize how deep the issue is or else i have never thought such a small thing can result in so many problemsRecommend

  • Parvez

    Faraz, as you said the point of the author was to stress that fighting in front of the child is bad.
    You have taken the discourse a big step further and into a complicated area –
    relationships and why they do not work. I’d love to read what someone like Rakshinda (the author) would have to say on this because she seems to be good on the society / family / value based subjects.Recommend

  • Tanzeel Ahmad

    Kids or no kids, there must be a way to argue. Couple should go for resolution of conflict rather than stretching the issue and making a mountain out of molehill. However both know that things will quickly be fine so its better not to indulge in anything gross that lead to embarrassment next day. Love your spouse and handle h/her with brains not tongue. That’s what I do and Masha Allah we are enjoying a happy life. : )Recommend

  • Custard_Pie_In_Your_Face

    If a couple is unable to divorce because it is taboo, it still does not give them the license to start a screaming match in front of the kids. That’s an entirely separate issue.

    Or are you saying that the children are expected to suffer because the parents do not have the guts to go against societal norms?

    Many couples do not realise how harmful it is to argue in front of children and do so as a matter of habit. Some on the other hand argue in front of the kids in order to paint their spouse as the ‘villian’.Recommend

  • Vikram

    What you and your husband are doing is definitely going to affect your 6 year old son’s life. Do you try to know how your son feels when you guys fight? Next time you fight talk to your son and ask him to tell you how he felt about your fight. Some time fighting becomes a habit. Six year old should be playing, enjoying life and not thinking about what his marriage will be like. Don’t involve him in this. A lot of fights are due to trivial matters. One needs to choose peace over who is right or wrong. Fights happen when both participants feel they are right.

    What was the reason your parents had very happy, stable and loving marriage your parents?

    Can you and your husband agree not fight one day a week just for your son?
    Like every Sunday a holiday from fights what ever may happen.Recommend

  • RAY

    I know how its feel .. Been through this and still going through !!!Recommend

  • khan of quetta

    no they dont this is the best time to quietly play pokemonRecommend

  • gp65

    “With a population of over a billion and an insecure law and order condition, mental health affects each one of us.”

    Population over a billion?Recommend

  • Hammad

    so what? no one cares? is there even awareness among the society to understand this problem? no! parents and rest of the nation has no awareness on mental health at allRecommend