Conflict between parents. Is it OK?

Conflict between parents.  Is it OK?

Today we will take a brief look at an online review of University of Arizona researcher Olena Kopystynska’s work regarding conflict between parents and how it affects their children’s emotional security.  Kopystynska is a graduate student who studies conflict and conflict resolution, and she focused on constructive versus destructive styles of conflict management.

So is conflict OK?  The bottom line, according to Kopystynska, is “conflict is okay as long as parents handle disagreements in a constructive way.”

Let’s look at how Kopystynska defines “constructive” and “destructive” conflict management.

Constructive conflict management:

  • “Calmness and respect, despite a difference in opinion”
  • “Conflict stays focused on one topic”
  • “Progression is made toward a resolution”

Destructive conflict management:

  • “Anger and resentment”
  • “The argument often strays off topic to things that may have happened in the past”

Kopystynska and her colleagues found that when even one parent handles conflict in a destructive way, the children can feel more emotionally insecure about their home life.  So rather than avoiding the inevitable disagreement, it’s important that parents focus on constructive ways to disagree.

The take-away message:

‘“Not all conflict is bad—it’s about how you manage it,” Kopystynska said.  “Given that children are going to encounter conflict out there in the real world, exposure to some conflict can be beneficial.  However, it’s really how parents handle that conflict that sets the tone for how safe children feel, and may further promote similar conflict management behaviors for when children are confronted with conflict of their own.”’

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