Kids may benefit from watching their parents resolve problems, study finds

By Linda Carroll contributor

Quarreling couples, relax. It may be OK to argue in front of your kids — as long as you fight fair.

Experts have long cautioned that children can experience serious psychological harm if they witness their parents fighting. But a new study, published in the Journal of Child Psychiatry and Psychology, suggests that children might actually benefit from watching their parents sort problems out.

“In some ways, kids benefit from seeing their parents disagreeing — and even being mildly angry,” says study co-author Patrick Davies, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester. “It gives them a lesson on how you can come to a mutually acceptable solution through compromise.”

The new study may ease the guilt of well-meaning parents who aren’t able to hide every dispute from their children. “I think the conclusion of this study — that not all marital conflict is destructive to children — may come as a relief to parents,” says Alan E. Kazdin, the John M. Musser Professor of Psychology and Child Psychiatry at Yale University.

That’s true for Brett Moshure, a 45-year-old executive consultant in Morgan Hill, Calif. Moshure and his wife agreed early on that they would never argue about the kids in front of the kids. But every other topic was fair game.

Sometimes things get heated, but Moshure wouldn’t do it any other way.

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image by Duane Hoffmann /