How Mishandling Conflict Can Harm Families

October 21, 2021

How Mishandling Conflict Can Harm Families

Low-level and poorly resolved family conflicts, especially between parents, are very common but usually considered inconsequential. Bickering and small actions like giving the cold shoulder or eye-rolling are a common part of family conflicts, and many believe that these actions don’t have an impact since it is not physical violence. But is this true?

Conflict is common in families. It can happen when family members have different views or beliefs that clash. It is also a common outcome when people misunderstand each other and jump to the wrong conclusion. However, it is crucial to understand that issues of conflict that are not resolved peacefully can lead to arguments and resentment, which can harm families, especially children.

Conflict is generally intense enough to disrupt some aspects of the relationship, such as communication. This is what differentiates it from simply having a different point of view. Moreover, it is not only romantic partners who can experience relationship conflict. Other members of the family can also become involved in the conflict.

However, despite the type of conflict, if it is prolonged and exaggerated, it can affect the mental health of the people involved. Many studies have shown that poorly managed conflicts have resulted in mental health problems in children, including depression, anxiety, poor sleep, and aggressive behavior.

On the other hand, reducing chronic conflict and tension has shown to help children feel the emotional security they need for robust mental health.

In this blog, we have listed how mishandled, and mismanaged conflict can harm families.

Decreased Emotional Security

Emotional security is defined as the confidence in the availability of attachment figures if an individual desires it, which influences the susceptibility to fear. This is built during the years of immaturity based on the person’s experience regarding their accessibility and responsiveness to attachment figures.

It is one of the most important aspects of a satisfying connection in any relationship. However, unresolved and mishandled conflicts in families can lead to family members being emotionally insecure. This not only affects the family member’s relationship with their peers but also with future romantic partners. This also affects their relationships with other family members.

Emotional insecurity can also lead to depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. All these issues are birthed due to the feeling of inadequacy and uncertainty. Studies also show that emotional insecurity can also lead to anxiety about your goals, relationships, and ability to handle certain situations.

Externalization Of Distress

Many family members of conflicted families have been known to externalize their frustration, sadness, and anxiety in the form of aggression and hostility. If conflicts are mishandled and mismanaged, family members, especially children, can become anti-social and non-compliant.

Studies show that children from high-conflict homes are more likely to have poor interpersonal skills, problem-solving abilities, and social competence. This negatively impacts their romantic relationships in adolescence and adulthood. They tend to perceive themselves and their social worlds more negatively and have more negative pictures or internal representations of family relationships.

Health Issues

Mishandled conflicts not only affect the mental health of family members but can also have a substantial negative effect on their physical health as well. Researchers at Portland State University’s Institute on Aging studied more than 650 adults for over two years. They found that these individuals were significantly associated with lower self-rated health, more significant functional limitations, and a higher number of health conditions.

Unresolved and mishandled conflict can lead to chronic stress, which can cause certain physical conditions, including:

  • Acne
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Burnout
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Digestive issues (such as diarrhea, constipation, ulcers)
  • Hair loss
  • Heart disease
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Insomnia
  • Obesity

How To Handle Conflict?

Even though you might feel the urge to push the point that you are right to win an argument, it is better to control your impulse and try to find a peaceful resolution. Finding a peaceful resolution is difficult, but it is not impossible.

Unfortunately, not many of us know what it takes to handle a conflict peacefully to find the best possible solution. If you are really looking forward to solving some unresolvable conflicts, it is best to get help from a local mediator.

Mediation services offer a plethora of courses to help you deal with your anger, manage unresolvable conflicts, deal with difficult people and learn more about conflict resolution in general.

About Mediation Services

Mediation Services has provided services in mediation and conflict resolution since 1979. Our mission is to empower individuals in conflict, create safe spaces for difficult conversations, and build capacity for future conflict. Mediation Services is a non-profit organization with a social enterprise. We receive funding through Manitoba Justice for our court diversion referrals and from United Way to subsidize our family and community conflict resolution costs. Our training programs build skills in conflict management, leadership, and mediation. Contact us for more information about our services.


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