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How Behavioral Problems With Children Affect Families

by Melody Causewell, studioD

Childhood behavioral issues can be a source of stress for children and family members alike. Research indicates that communication issues, increased stress, negative sibling behaviors and marital problems may all arise from behavioral disturbances in children. Family intervention may prove to be a vital part of improving these key factors in households under pressure from children with behavioral problems.

Communication Issues

Parents may communicate more negatively after interactions with disruptive children, according to research conducted through the University of Buffalo. Published in the "Journal of Abnormal Psychology" in 2012, this study randomly assigned parents of 9- to 12-year-old children to an activity with a disruptive child or a more positive, less disruptive individual. Parental interactions following more negative experiences with children showed more conflict, fewer positive responses and more negativity than their counterparts who experienced more positive interactions. Child behavior may have a dramatic impact on the way others in the household communicate, an issue that should be taken into consideration in the treatment of all family members.

Increased Parental Stress

While it has been well documented that parental stress and marital conflict can cause behavioral problems in children, research published in the "American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities" reports that the inverse is also true. In a 2012 study out of the University of California, researchers followed 144 normally developing children and 93 children identified as having behavioral issues. Their actions and the emotional responses of their parents were examined for relationships between parental stress and undesired behaviors. Children with more behavior issues had parents who had more signs of stress and anxiety than those without these problems. This indicates that child behavior and the stress levels of other family members can increase -- and decrease -- together, which may pave the way for treatments that embrace more familial involvement.

Negative Impacts on Sibling Behavior

Behavioral problems of one child may also impact the behavior of other children in the household. In a 2010 study published in the "American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities," University of California researchers found that in children ages 5 to 8 years, siblings of a child with behavioral disturbances had more negative behaviors and less positive emotional profiles. This research supports the notion that brothers and sisters of children with identified emotional or behavioral disturbances should be involved in treatment interventions alongside their siblings.

Lowered Marital Satisfaction

Higher levels of stress may contribute to additional issues within parental relationships. In a study out of the Tehran University of Medical Sciences and published in the "Iranian Journal of Psychiatry" in 2012, parents of children suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder had lower levels of marital satisfaction than those couples who had children without behavioral issues. Due to the relationship between childhood behavior and marital dissatisfaction, parents should try to focus on their needs as well as those of their children to maintain relationship stability.

About the Author

Melody Causewell has been a writer in the mental health field since 2001. She written training manuals and clinical programs for mental health organizations. She has published feature articles "Leaven" magazine and has been published in "Natural Awakenings." She has a degree in psychology, a Masters degree in social work and is a La Leche League leader.

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