World Mental Healthcare Association

Parental Separation and Conflicts Can Affect Child’s Mental Health, Study Claims

Mental Health News: Researchers found that children exposed to conflicts between divorced parents experience fear of abandonment, which is associated with future physical and mental health problems, especially children who had strong relationships with their fathers.

Researchers at Arizona State University surveyed 559 children (aged 9-18 years) about their exposure to conflict. The questions were designed to understand how children with divorced or separated parents interpreted interparental conflict.

Children exposed to interparental conflict were more likely to report worrying about being abandoned by one or both of their parents. The fear of abandonment was persistent in both children whose parents are married or cohabitating engage in conflict and those whose parents are already divorced or separated. 

Worrying about abandonment predicted mental health problems, as reported by the children themselves and their teachers. Children who grow up with high-quality parenting relationships feel protective. They experience less stress, fear of abandonment, and mental health problems. 

“A strong father-child relationship came at a cost when the interparental conflict was high,” said Karey O’Hara, a research assistant professor of psychology and first author on the paper.

To Know More, You May Refer To 

Karey L. O’Hara, C. Aubrey Rhodes, Sharlene A. Wolchik, Irwin N. Sandler, Jenn Yun‐Tein. Longitudinal Effects of PostDivorce Interparental Conflict on Children’s Mental Health Problems Through Fear of Abandonment: Does Parenting Quality Play a Buffering Role? Child Development, Jan. 12, 2021; DOI: 10.1111/cdev.13539

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