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How Poor Relationships Affect the Family

by Melody Causewell

Negative interactions within families can be a source of stress for parents and children alike. While arguing and anger may be the most immediate symptoms identified, poor relationships in a family interact in many ways to create additional problems for its members, making it vital to identify and resolve these issues. Depression, increased conflict, aggressive problem solving and poor health outcomes for family members may all be linked to poor relationships.

Emotional Consequences

Adolescent depression may be linked to early family relationships, according to research performed in Hong Kong and published in the "Journal of Family Psychology," in 2009. This study found that in families who reported poor relationships, depressive symptoms in adolescent children were significantly higher than in families where relationships were reported as healthy. Families with hostile or negative relationships may benefit from therapeutic intervention to promote more positive interaction and avoid depression.

Conflict Spillover

Poor relationships between parents may contribute to more negative relationships between parents and children, according to University of Michigan research. This study, published in the "Journal of Marriage and Family" in 2010, found that negative relationships between parents as well as divorce were both associated with negativity in mother-child relationships. This study also found that these effects were more pronounced in families where the parents remained together, suggesting that the continuous conflict encourages more conflict in other relationships. Parents who choose to remain together -- and even those who don't -- may benefit from intervention to improve interactions.

Aggression Breeds Aggression

Poor relationships that include violence may keep a cycle of aggression going within families, according to research out of the University of Southern California. This study, published in the "Journal of Clinical, Child and Adolescent Psychology" in 2007, found that children showed more aggressive behaviors when their parent of the same sex exhibited more aggression in familial interactions. Because poor relationships within the family may not only encourage more inter-family hostility but also aggressive problem solving outside the family, care should be taken to address relationships as well as problem-solving strategies so that families can more easily heal.

Health of Family Members

Early relationships may change physical responses, leading to increased stress responses for family members, according to research conducted through Arizona State University and published in "Hormones and Behavior" in 2009. This study found that individuals with negative familial relationships in childhood had higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone linked to anxiety as well as heart disease. Because poor relationships within families can lead to higher hormone levels -- and the physical consequences that go along with this -- early intervention is vital to reduce effects on family members.

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.

Photo Credits

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