Kids of quarrelling parents face problems at school

September 16th, 2008 - 2:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 16 (IANS) Children upset by quarrelling parents tend to encounter problems at school, because they are unable to concentrate on allotted tasks, a new study confirms.Conducted by researchers at the universities of Rochester, Syracuse and Notre Dame, the study is among the first to chart how children’s concerns about their parents’ relationship may increase their adjustment problems.

The study looked at a group of 216 predominantly white six-year-olds, their parents, and their teachers annually over a three-year period. Children were evaluated to determine their negative thoughts and worries about how their parents got along, based on how they completed unfinished stories about conflicts between parents.

Teachers reported on children’s ability to get along with their classmates and take part in class activities, and on their behaviour as a measure of how they had adjusted to school.

Specifically, they were asked whether the children were cooperative with peers, followed teachers’ directions, used classroom materials responsibly, and usually acted appropriately.

Children’s attention problems were assessed through reports by parents and computerised measures of how they were able to focus and sustain attention.

Children worried about how their parents got along had more attention problems a year after the concern was first identified, according to the study.

These attention problems, in turn, were associated with reports by teachers that the children had problems adjusting to school in the same year and one year later.

In many cases, children’s negative thoughts were based on witnessing actual relationship problems between parents, and the study suggests that the children may have used the negative thoughts to help them cope with stress in high-conflict homes.

“Understanding how children respond to discord between parents is a pressing priority for public health,” according to Patrick T. Davies, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester and co-author of the study.

“Implementing programmes to help strengthen children’s ability to pay attention may be one way to promote children’s mental health.”

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