LSCBLocal Safeguarding Children Board Northamptonshire

Reducing Parental Conflict

Here you will find details on how Northamptonshire is responding to Reducing Parental Conflict.

What is Parental Conflict

Conflict between parents is a normal part of relationships and family life. Not all conflict is damaging, but the way conflict manifests – its frequency, intensity and how it is resolved – can negatively affect children.

Where conflict between parents is frequent, intense and poorly resolved, it can harm children’s outcomes – regardless of whether parents are together or separated. This includes family contexts not usually regarded as ‘high risk’, not just where parents have separated or divorced or where there is domestic violence.

Conflict can affect children in all types of parental relationships, which includes:

  • Parents who are in a relationship with each other, whether married or not
  • Parents who have separated or divorced
  • Biological and ‘step’ parents
  • Gay and lesbian parents.

Conflict can range across a continuum of severity, from constructive to destructive conflict, to domestic violence and abuse in its most extreme form. Destructive conflict behaviours which put children’s mental health and long term life chances at risk include aggression, non-verbal conflict or ‘the silent treatment’. By contrast, constructive conflict – where there continues to be respect and emotional control, and conflict is resolved or explained – is linked to lower risks of child distress. This suggests conflict resolution skills are an important focus for intervention to improve child outcomes.

What can you do?

Responding to parental conflict is not the responsibility of any single agency or workforce. Rather because people need relationship support at different points in their family life, any practitioner or volunteer who works with families can have an impact. Universal, targeted and specialist services all have a role to play in the prevention and treatment of parental conflict.

Last updated: 12 July 2023

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