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The Impact of Marital Discord and disrespectful relationship between couples on a Child's Psyche

24 Dec 2015


The most negatively impacting experience for a child is to witness fights among parents. Contrary to the belief that kids have no understanding of what is happening until they grow up; children at a very young age can differentiate between an aggressive communication or a loving one.

Constant unpleasantness among parents also leads to maladaptive parenting which is marked by high hostility and low warmth towards the child. These have a lasting impact not just on the parent- child relationship but also on the child’s own personality. Research conducted across the world has shown that children brought up in dysfunctional homes are at a greater risk for psychological issues such as; anxiety, depression, difficulties in adjustment and conduct problems. In later life children brought up in such homes do have relationship difficulties and find it difficult to sustain marriages as they.

“I always saw my mother crying and my father being abusive. I have lived with only these memories of my parents. I have woken up many nights fearing that my mother is being hit and on my other nights locked in the bathroom as I feared the worst”. Say 34 Year old Anish.  He now struggles with anxiety and difficulties to adjust at home and at work.

Here are some indicators that can help you identify if your child can feel the stress in your marriage:

Infants and Toddlers:

·         Regression in terms of sleeping, toilet training or eating; slowing down in the mastery of new skills

·         Sleep disturbances (difficulty going to sleep; frequent waking)

·         Difficulty leaving parent; clinginess

·         General crankiness, temper tantrums, crying.

·         Showing distress even when parents start to talk

Early Childhood (3 to 5 Years):

·         Regression; lapses in toilet training, thumb sucking

·          Immature grasp of what has happened; bewildered; making up fantasy stories

·          Blaming themselves and feeling guilty

·          Bedtime anxiety, frequent waking

·          Fear of being abandoned by both parents; clinginess

·          Greater irritability, aggression, temper tantrums.

Childhood (6 t0 9 years):

·         Pervasive sadness; feeling abandoned and rejected

·         Crying and sobbing

·          Afraid of their worst fears coming true

·         Reconciliation fantasies

·         Loyalty conflicts; feeling physically torn apart between both parent’s

·          Problems with impulse control; disorganized behaviour.

Pre Adolescent Years (9 to 12 years):

·         Able to see family disruption clearly; try to bring order to situation

·         Fear of loneliness

·         Intense anger at the parent they blame for causing the marital discord

·         Physical complaints; headaches and stomach aches

·         Feel ashamed of what's happening in their family; feel they are different from other children.

·         Conduct problems; talking back, bullying in school

·         Academic difficulties


·         Fear of being isolated and lonely

·          Experience parents as leaving them; feel parents are not available to them

·          Feel hurried to achieve independence i.e. living alone and away from parents

·          Feel in competition with parents.

·          Worry about their own future, loves and marriage, preoccupied with the survival of relationships

·         Chronic fatigue; difficulty concentrating

·         Being argumentative and aggressive at home and social settings

·         Academic difficulties

·         Taking advantage of the fights among parents

If your child is witnessing the constant fights, arguments or any other kind of psychological and physical abuse, it is time you think about bringing about change. Healthy, secure and loving home environments are the pre-requisites for a child to flourish and develop into well-adjusted personalities.

Marriage Counseling at can be your answer to all your difficulties. Here is how we can help:

Step -1 The Intake

In the initial phase both the parents report their troubles in the marriage and the difficulties that they face to the therapist individually. Both are encouraged to speak freely and thus the it is taken individually. It also aims at seeing how their own behaviour is impacting the child.

Step-2  The Stabilization Phase (Assessment and De-escalating Phase)

Here the both partner along with the therapist try and explore the difficulties and help them see one another’s perspective. It is not a game match where the therapist acts like a referee. The therapist tries to bring about changes from ‘me’ to ‘we’ in parenting styles. Each partner takes respective responsibilities for the child. Appropriate ways of communicating with each other and the child are established. The importance of respecting each other is clearly highlighted by the therapist. Two major outcomes:

·         Identifying the rational conflicts between both parents

·         Identifying negative interaction patterns; not just among the partners but also with the child.

Stage-3 Restructuring the Interaction Pattern

The therapist helps each partner to see the emotional needs of their partner. The pattern of interaction or how they would like to be communicated with is brought in practice. The effect of a healthy communication pattern on the child is clearly highlighted by the therapist. The major outcomes of this stage are:

·         Acknowledging one another’s emotional needs and experiences. Example need for reassurance in one partner which was completely ignored by the other and was cause conflicts.

·         Ability to view an experience from one another’s perspective

Stage-4 Integration and Consolidation

Here the new emotional experiences with the partner are highlighted. Couples now start to use new ways of dealing with problems that are more acceptable to one another. They also start to approach parenting as a single unit and not two separate entities. The two major outcomes of this stage are:

·         New solution to old problems. New and healthier ways to approach issues related to children.

·         See common goals for the child and share a similar perspective towards the child’s needs

·         Consolidate new interaction patterns between the couple and the children.

In some cases where there has been intense physical, verbal and financial abuse. The child is also brought in for therapy. The therapy primarily aims at the following:

1.       Encourage children to express the inconsistent behaviour patterns of the parents.

2.       Helping them deal with the traumas of negligence and abuse.

3.       Understanding the perspective of the child towards his parents and bringing in a resolve.

Children learn by seeing their parents. They just not only mirror their overt behaviours but also the emotions experiences by the parents. Let us help them attain what each child truly deserves….A happy and secure childhood!

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Tags: #child #psyche #behavior #fights