Through the Eyes of Innocence: The Damaging Impact of Witnessing Parental Discord


When it comes to arguments and conflicts, parents are not exempted. In fact, disagreements come so often from families that it’s no longer big news when you hear some kid wallow about his or her parents fighting.




Responsible parenthood means that you are aware of the devastating consequences your hurtful words and actions can bring to your children. What seems to be a fruitful and enjoyable childhood becomes a nightmare, scarring and debilitating them physically, mentally, and emotionally. Therefore, it is always best to consider the massive, damaging impact of you and your partner arguing in front of your kids.

One of the biggest surprises in my research was evidence that for some children, news of their parents’ upcoming separation constitutes an actual physical trauma. — Vikki Stark M.S.W., M.F.T.

Before It’s Too Late

For the sake of your relationship and connection with your significant other and the sake of your kids’ well-being, keep your squabbles private. Because if you purposely dispute in front of your children for the sake of showing them who’s right and wrong, the following adverse results may happen:




  1. Developing Insecurities, Guilt, And Shame

Children believe that home is where the heart is; however if animosity is ruining their haven of love and affection, kids will eventually become frightened, helpless, and anxious. Usually, kids would think that hostility within the house is their fault and would start feeling guilty. Development of insecurities, guilt, and shame does not go away quickly and affects your children as they turn to adults.


  1. Severed Self-Esteem

Feelings of guilt, shame, and insecurity may have this impression on your children that you don’t want them or they are unworthy of affection; this thought is damaging and creates a permanent imprint in your children’s personality. As the child grows, these feelings are then reflected in your kid’s professional and personal relationships.

As an adult, the engulfed child becomes an adult obsessed with relationships, demanding others meet all their needs without taking responsibility for meeting their own needs. — Amy Quinn, MA, MS, LMFT

According to a particular report, kids who regularly witness parents who are fighting or arguing find it challenging to process contradictions that are not positively addressed by their parents. Kids think that they must be the reason why their parents disagreed in the first place.


  1. Health And Academics Are Severely Affected

Instead of being focused on their health and academics, your children’s minds are more occupied in processing the shouting and struggling they saw the night before. When there is discord within the house, children’s performance at school is adversely affected and would require them to exert more effort in concentrating which leads them to stress and pressure. When the mind is overworked from balancing conflict and academics, the body becomes unstable to the point of having lower immunity from chronic physical or mental illnesses.


  1. Perception Of Love Is Tarnished

For children, a home is a refuge filled with tenderness, respect, and security. Therefore, the moment they witness their parents fighting countless of times, their concept of what a home should be is shattered, and their minds start to drift the opposite of their first impression. Trust issues begin to occur especially when dealing with other people. Children would think that since their sources of love and affection are passively hurting them, it becomes worse with other people. This event will then make them more suspicious and pessimistic about other people, intensely crippling their social and people skills.

Most parents hope for their children to grow up behaving with decency, emotional openness, affection, non-defensiveness, and other positive attributes. It’s crucial for parents to model these qualities and behaviors for their children. — Johannes Kieding, LCSW

  1. Behavioral And Mental Disorders

One of the primary concerns with parental discord is how it dramatically affects a child’s behavior and mental well-being. Children have weak coping mechanisms that when they witness or even hear their parents shouting at each other or propelling things at each other, they feel drained and inadequate. This leads to developmental issues such as having reckless behaviors like bullying or getting into school fights or being loud and rowdy. On the other hand, some children are withdrawn and become introverted that even minor social contact makes them feel uneasy.


Severe cases show that children who have experienced chronic disharmony within their homes develop mental illnesses like ADHD, OCD, anxiety, and depression. Furthermore, kids who are a product of unstable, unfriendly home environments are more likely to become addicts as adults.


These tendencies are rooted in the fact that discord directly affects children’s brain development. Kids who grew up in upsetting households developed increased chances of vigilance in assessing their settings and potentially preparing themselves for any unwanted and stressful occurrences. This condition of being always alert is evident through a child’s processing and reacting to specific emotions.




The Takeaway

Parents who usually argue in front of their children think that since children still have little to no understanding of problems about adult life, they will just forget that the disagreement ever happened. That’s where they’re wrong. Like what they say, children’s minds are like sponges that absorb everything. Letting your child see you and your partner distressingly argue will severely have a massive impact on their personality and behavior. Therefore, as much as possible, be a more responsible parent and save your children from future repercussions by not giving them front seat row tickets to your live fights.