Sunday Star Times 05/07/2009
A TOP academic has warned parents they risk long-term psychological damage to their children by arguing frequently or even giving each other the silent treatment. Professor Gordon Harold, the new chair of a ground-breaking family research unit at Otago University, says while all parents fight, the way they treat each other could set children up for emotional, social, behavioural and academic problems later in life.
Harold’s research, which has been influential in the United Kingdom and United States, could revolutionise New Zealand parenting courses, and could also be used by our Family Courts. Harold has found that when parents quarrel in a positive, non-hostile way, children “tend to do OK”. But when parents argue often, and use negative tactics anything from being physically violent to shouting, ridiculing one another or using dismissive body language children are at “distinct risk”. Less obvious hostility between couples, such as not speaking, or treating each other coldly, could also damage children. The biggest factor was when arguments were not resolved, and when children blamed themselves for parents’ fights.