The Effects of Arguments

By Rodolfo Cortes | March 1, 2008 | 0 comments

Many parents find themselves locked in perpetual conflict with a teenage son or daughter. But new research suggests parents shouldn’t be too quick to blame these conflicts on the trials of adolescence. Instead, a team of Dutch researchers has found that the way adolescents resolve conflicts with their parents can actually be traced to the way parents resolve conflicts with each other.

Affordable Illustrations Source/

In their study, recently published in the Journal of Family Psychology, the researchers administered a set of questionnaires to roughly three hundred two-parent Dutch families, all of whom included a young adolescent. The questionnaires measured how frequently participants practiced three different conflict resolution styles: conflict engagement (e.g., “getting furious and losing my temper,” “letting myself go and saying things I do not really mean”); withdrawal (e.g., “not listening anymore”); or positive problem solving, which involves making compromises (e.g., “negotiating and trying to find a solution that is mutually acceptable”) and effective communication (e.g., “sitting down and discussing the differences of opinion”). Parents answered the questionnaires with regard to conflicts with their spouse; children considered their conflicts with their parents. The researchers then waited two years before questioning the families again.

The results showed that couples who practiced positive problem solving with each other had children who demonstrated these positive skills toward their parents two years down the line. The researchers also found that adolescents’ conflict resolution styles at the first time period did not predict how well parents resolved their own conflicts two years later. This suggests that kids don’t have the same kinds of long-term effects on their parents’ relationship as the parents’ relationship has on their kids.

While previous research has often focused on how negative behaviors are transmitted from one generation to the next, this study is the first to show that children emulate the positive conflict resolution styles practiced between parents. “For parents, it is an important lesson to handle conflicts better for the sake of their children, and for themselves,” write the researchers.

Tracker Pixel for Entry

Greater Good wants to know:
Do you think this article will influence your opinions or behavior?

  • Very Likely

  • Likely

  • Unlikely

  • Very Unlikely

  • Not sure


Like this article?

Here's what you can do:

blog comments powered by Disqus



Greater Good Events

The Greater Good Science Center Summer Institute for Educators 2017
Clark Kerr Campus, UC-Berkeley
Sunday, June 25 - Friday, June 30, 2017 OR Sunday, July 16 - Friday, July 21, 2017

The Greater Good Science Center Summer Institute for Educators 2017

The GGSC’s six-day Summer Institute equips education professionals with prosocial learning strategies, tools and processes that benefit both students and teachers.


Take a Greater Good Quiz!

How compassionate are you? How generous, grateful, or forgiving? Find out!


Watch Greater Good Videos

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Talks by inspiring speakers like Jon Kabat-Zinn, Dacher Keltner, and Barbara Fredrickson.


Greater Good Resources


Book of the Week

Roots of Empathy By Mary Gordon Mary Gordon explains how best to nurture empathy and social emotional literacy in all children—and thereby reduce aggression, antisocial behavior, and bullying.

Is she flirting with you? Take the quiz and find out.
"It is a great good and a great gift, this Greater Good. I bow to you for your efforts to bring these uplifting and illuminating expressions of humanity, grounded in good science, to the attention of us all."  
Jon Kabat-Zinn

Best-selling author and founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program

thnx advertisement