Unhealthy family relationships lead to behavior problems in kids

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Washington, July 17 (ANI): A new psychology study has found that unhappy families, are unhappy in two distinct ways, and the dual pattern of such unhealthy relationships lead to a host of specific difficulties for children during their early school years.

The three-year study examined relationship patterns in 234 families with six-year-old children.

"Families can be a support and resource for children as they enter school, or they can be a source of stress, distraction, and maladaptive behaviour," said Melissa Sturge-Apple, the lead researcher on the paper and an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Rochester.

"This study shows that cold and controlling family environments are linked to a growing cascade of difficulties for children in their first three years of school, from aggressive and disruptive behavior to depression and alienation. The study also finds that children from families marked by high levels of conflict and intrusive parenting increasingly struggle with anxiety and social withdrawal as they navigate their early school years," she added.

The research team identified three distinct family profiles-one happy, termed cohesive, and two unhappy, termed disengaged and enmeshed.

Cohesive families are characterized by harmonious interactions, emotional warmth, and firm but flexible roles for parents and children.

Enmeshed families, by contrast, may be emotionally involved and display modest amounts of warmth, but they struggle with high levels of hostility, destructive meddling, and a limited sense of the family as a team.

Finally, disengaged families, as the name implies, are marked by cold, controlling, and withdrawn relationships.

Although the study demonstrates solid evidence of a family-school connection, the authors caution that dysfunctional family relationships are not responsible for all or even most behaviour difficulties in school.

Other risk factors, such as high-crime neighbourhoods, high-poverty schools, troubled peer circles, and genetic traits also influence whether one child develops more problems than another child, explained co-author Patrick Davies.

The research found that children from disengaged homes began their education with higher levels of aggressive and disruptive behaviour and more difficulty focusing on learning and cooperating with the classroom rules.

These destructive behaviours grew worse as the child progressed through school.

By contrast, children from enmeshed home environments entered school with no more disciplinary problems or depression and withdrawal than their peers from cohesive families.

But as children from both enmeshed and disengaged homes continued in school they began to suffer higher levels of anxiety and feelings of loneliness and alienation from peers and teachers.

The authors concluded that, "children in the early school years may be especially vulnerable to the destructive relationship patterns of enmeshed families."

The study is published in Child Development. (ANI)

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