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Family conflicts and helpless children

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Family conflicts
Common family issues are inevitable and disagreements are a normal part of any relationship. These
occur when people have different beliefs, needs, or ways of doing things – that conflict. But if remedial
measures are not taken, such conflicts start damaging the relationships at home.
It is any conflict between members of a family – that is, parents and children, husband and wife, siblings
or extended family such as aunts, uncles, grandparents. In short, family conflict is a strong disagreement or discord between members of a family. Every family is made up of many unique people with their own personalities, and different opinions and thoughts about every subject and situation. In such situations, family disputes may arise, which is also the natural and healthy progression of any relationship. According to many psychologists, some family conflict is healthier than no conflict at all, which in itself indicates a problem (SINGH, 2012).

Conflict can be defined as the lack of peace in an environment. Conflict in a family therefore refers to a
situation whereby the smooth interaction and relation among members of a family is disrupted because
of one thing or another. It can be between the two parents or between parents and their children.
Conflict in a family can be as a result of lack of trust, drunkenness, and lack of dialogue, lack of respect,
joblessness and idleness. It comes in form of fights, quarrels, spouse battering, child abuses and child
molestation. It can result to a bad atmosphere in the home, separation or even divorce (WANJIKU,
2010) .
It is normal for individuals to have differences and the same applies to family members, however if the
differences become so intense that active opposition takes place, it is called family conflict. Children are
more likely to experience emotional, social, and behavioral problems, as well as lower academic
performance and poor concentration, when their parents frequently oppose them. Family conflict can
be verbal, physical, sexual, financial, or psychological and can lead to unhealthy and risky behaviors,
poor attachment styles, and interpersonal relationship struggles. This can also lead to mental health
problems for many children, including depression, anxiety, poor sleep and aggressive behavior. Frequent
and intense conflicts between parents have a negative impact on children’s sense of safety and security,
affecting their relationships with their parents and with others. Children who experience parental
conflict are more likely to have unhealthy peers, lower academic achievement, lack of self-confidence,
and physical and mental health problems (depression, anxiety, and interpersonal violence) (Goel, 2023).
It is normal for parents to sometimes disagree, however, high levels of conflict and rivalry between
parents put children at greater risk of developing emotional, social and behavioral problems, as well as
difficulties with concentration and academic achievement. Frequent and intense conflicts or fights between parents also have a negative impact on children’s sense of safety and security, which affects
their relationships with their parents and with others (Federal Circuit Court of Australia, 2013) .

Common causes of family conflict
All families are different and the ups and downs of family life have a huge impact on children and young
people. The love and support children feel from parents and relatives will give them strength to grow
and develop. But all families go through difficult times, and some children and teens may find it hard to
get along with parents or siblings. This can be for a variety of reasons, including:
 Different personalities clash and disagree on how things are done
 Jealousy or fighting between siblings
 Parents argue
 Divorce or separation
 New parents or step-siblings
 A parent or relative with a mental health problem, disability or illness
 A parent or relative with an alcohol or drug problem
 Stress caused by unemployment, money or housing problems.
 Domestic violence
 Cultural or generational differences
 Consequences of bereavement
 Abuse or neglect
 Clash of egos.
 Friction among family members.
 No happiness in the family.
 Lack of communication among family members.
 Disagreements on bringing up children.
 Lack of family time and togetherness.
 A child or teenager asserting his or her independence.
 Children showing disrespect towards family members.
 Frequent disagreements among siblings.
 Dispute on who or how to handle chores.
 Difference of opinion over career direction, land disputes, or transfer of property.
 Difference in age, gender, and culture between family members.
 Moving to a new location, like a new house or country.
 Traveling long distance to work, or commuting interstate for work.
 Change in financial conditions, division of income, or disagreements over money.

Children and young people often think that family problems are their fault, even if no one tells them.
Changes in the family can be unsettling and upsetting, leaving children feeling insecure and feeling bad
about them (Family Problems, 2023) (SINGH, 2012) . As a result of destructive, unresolved parent-child conflict, children may be uncertain about the strength of emotional bonds essential to their survival. Therefore, children can act to avoid such threats by ending the argument or withdrawing from their own and unpleasant feelings. Some children blame themselves and it destroys their self-esteem. Children who cannot stop their parents fighting may feel like they have failed and this can lead to depression.

Children’s performance due to family conflict
One of the main problems of school teachers which is increasing day by day is the low academic
performance generated in some students and the negative interference in the normal development of
the teaching process. However, there is a group of parents who do not want to attend and meet the
needs of the students and this leads to lower school performance.
The family as the basic unit of society plays a major role in the educational aspect of their family
members. Problems are inevitable but not managed and affect students’ behavior and academic
performance. Family problems that include financial difficulties, relationships and bad habits are factors
that contribute to student functioning. Lack of financial aid affects student attendance and compliance
with school projects and activities. Students choose to skip class rather than go hungry at school one
day. On the other hand, family relationships affect the emotional level of the student. It affects their
attention in class. The wrong culture of the family brings out bad behavior and habits in the students.
Family problems are inevitable and have a great impact on students’ academic performance. This
awareness helps teachers and parents to help students who are facing serious family issues to pursue
their students despite those family issues and challenges. They should develop a positive spirit and
positive response in life (Brian et al., 2019) .
Parental involvement and education improves family and child functioning. It has been found that
parental involvement in a child can have a lasting effect on his behavior. Steinberg (1996) argued that
assets related to conflict are a critical component of family functioning, often overriding the influence of
family structure on child development. He also reports that studies have found that children’s healthy
and social development is most effectively promoted by loving and at least moderate parenting.
According to Seifert and Hoffnung (1997), children who have lived for years in neglected or abusive
situations are more likely to suffer from depression. They also state that students often receive long-
term support from parents or other adults at home, as well as strong support from teachers and others
at school. Involving parents in learning activities at home with their children is one form of parental
involvement that many educators believe is an important part of a child’s learning. If there are conflicts
in the family, parents do not have time for their children (WANJIKU, 2010) .

Ways to resolve family conflicts
Families can offer a lot of love and support, but challenges and conflicts often arise between family
members, and it’s essential to have some tools to work through them effectively.
When parents deal with their conflicts constructively, children’s mental health improves, and parents
can calmly talk together and focus on problem solving. Sometimes parents can gently touch each other while talking, sometimes even using humor with each other can be helpful as it has a refreshing effect
on children. When they see their parents working out their differences, they feel that their family is safe
and secure.
The quality of the relationship with their parents can affect children’s mental health and well-being even
after they have left home as adults. Interpersonal styles in their own relationships can worsen the
effects on their mental health. With interventions, short-term improvements in children’s psychological
well-being occur when parents handle conflict more positively, solve problems together, and talk kindly
to each other. Interventions that foster healthy parenting and promote parents’ mental health are also
effective. Children are also protected from the effects of inter-parental conflict by significant
relationships with classmates, other adults, or siblings (Goel, 2023) .
Accepting personal differences, talking, having fun together and getting professional help are effective
strategies through which many family problems are solved. Clayton Behavioral Therapists help family
members to overcome their communication challenges and achieve more meaningful relationships.
Parents need to take control and develop effective discipline strategies so that they can prevent
common family problems. All family members must commit to change their attitudes in the process of
solving problems.
With love and respect all family problems can be overcome. Family members should understand the
temperaments of other family members so that they are able to approach them in an appropriate
manner (Family Problems, n.d.). Conflicts have existed and will exist, they are an integral part of human relationships. They arise because of the differences between people, the actions, perceptions, and feelings of each of us are not the same and sometimes conflict with each other.

Based on the works of David Johnson, one of the possible behavior models can be proposed to resolve
the conflict situation that has arisen. An important role in the constructive resolution of conflicts is
played by the following factors:

  1. Adequacy of Conflict Reflection.
    Often in a conflict situation, we misunderstand our own actions, intentions and positions, as well as the
    actions, intentions and points of view of the opponent. Common reflections of cognition include:
    Categorization is a “black and white” view of relationships with a spouse. If there is a problem in any
    aspect of the marriage – you think that the marriage will be destroyed. On the other hand, if there is
    progress in any area of the relationship, you are absolutely calm for the marriage as a whole.
     Pessimism – You see, only the negative aspects matter and ignore the positive aspects of your
    marriage. Your predictions for a joint future are rather bleak.
     Subjectivism – You ignore the obvious in terms of “own” facts. You are used to using your
    feelings as proof of something.

 Indolence – You believe that the problem doesn’t exist or that the individual things that happen
are of no importance to your marriage.
 Idealism – You have a romantic outlook on life. Your expectations of yourself, your partner, and
marriage in general are unrealistic.
 Unrealistic needs – Your spouse should be exactly what you want them to be. The most
common words in your dictionary are “must” and “must”.
 Comfort Orientation – You view marriage as a tool to fulfill your needs only and increase your
comfort level.
 Fatalism – You refuse to change anything in your marriage, not because you are satisfied with
everything, but because “nothing can be changed.” The principle “what will be – will be.”
 Conservatism – You see marriage as a stereotype of relationships. External influences make you
anxious. Fear of thoughts of needing to change something.
Sacrifice – You view marriage from the perspective of the victim and the need to sacrifice something: to
save a marriage, for someone or something. A classic example: for children. The main mistake is that
children, following the path of your relationship, realizing it in their families, destroy themselves in the
same role as “victim” (principle of negative programming).
In any conflict, both partners experience so-called mixed feelings. On the one hand, everyone feels
dislike, anger or hatred for another, a desire for the opponent to abandon his position, on the other – his
opponents have more benevolent feelings engendered by the totality of previous relationships, as well
as a desire for mutual understanding and agreement.
Knowing this, in a conflict situation, you should carefully analyze your feelings in specific situations.

  1. Openness and effectiveness of communication between conflicting parties;
    This is the main condition for constructive conflict resolution. Therefore, sometimes it makes sense to
    take risks at the beginning of the conflict and tell each other what you feel as strongly as possible. In this case, it makes no sense to try to solve something, the main thing is not to offend or humiliate a partner. Mutual expression of feelings helps create conditions for using communication to exchange creative thoughts. Also, avoid threats, lies, attempts at manipulation partner, because these actions are dictated by the desire to gain an upper hand over the enemy, not to gain mutual consent.
  2. Creating an atmosphere of mutual trust and cooperation.
    Conflict is most successfully resolved if both parties are interested in achieving some common outcome
    that encourages cooperation (There, n.d.) .

Brian, L. S., Genavia, N. A. M., Gososo, J. E. G., Jr., N. M. R., Tapon, J. L., & Valenzuela, A. M. C. (2019).
The Impact of Family Problems in the Academic Performance of HUMSS Grade 12 Students in
Bestlink College of the Philippines. Journal of Multidisciplinary Research Abstracts.
Family Problems. (n.d.). Clayton Behavioral. https://www.claytonbehavioral.com/family-problems
Family Problems. (2023). Youthline. https://www.youthlineuk.com/what-is-counselling/family-
Federal Circuit Court of Australia. (2013). Parental conflict and its effect on children. 1–2.
Goel, D. P. (2023). Family conflict and its effect on children. The Times of India.
SINGH, H. (2012). Steps to Resolve Family Conflict. Aha!Now Discover Happiness. https://www.aha-
There, I. (n.d.). Methods of resolving family conflicts Zebrin Yakov.
WANJIKU, M. I. (2010). and Interpersonal Relationships of Pupils in Public Primary Schools in Nakuru
Municipality. Impact of Family Conflicts on the Academic Performance and Interpersonal
Relationships of Pupils in Public Primary Schools in Nakuru Municipality.

Diluka Bandara
Diluka Bandara
senior student, Rajarata university of Sri Lanka


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