What is family conflict?

mother and son walking away

Conflict is a normal part of family life and can often escalate during teenage years. About 1 in 5 young people say they are concerned about family conflict, which can arise for many different reasons. There are simple tools parents can use to help minimise the impact of conflict on their children and strengthen family relationships.

This can help if you:

  • notice that fighting is increasing in your home

  • want to know the reasons why conflict arises

  • want to know ways to manage and minimise family conflict.

What is family conflict?

Conflict is the normal process through which people resolve differences. When people live together under the same roof, there are bound to be disagreements and arguments as personalities clash and everyone wants to be heard. This is one of the most common teenage problems with parents which may lead to ongoing parent teenager conflict.

This can increase during adolescence in particular, as it’s normal for teenagers to seek independence and separation from their parents. Other causes of family fighting can be differences in opinions, poor communication, changes in the family (such as a new baby or divorce), sibling rivalry or discipline issues.

Also remember that, as your child moves through their teenage years, they’re still learning the life skills that they will need for adult life. Dealing with conflict effectively is likely to be something that they’re inexperienced in, and as a parent you can play an important role in helping them develop this skill.

How family conflict can influence your child

Conflict in families can impact children in many ways and long-term exposure to conflict may be psychologically damaging. Children can be influenced by family issues like fighting in a number of ways.

  • Some children and adolescents may act out by showing increased aggression, defiance and behavioral problems.

  • Your child may experience depressive symptoms, such as feeling lonely or sad, or isolating themselves in their bedroom for long periods.

  • Children exposed to parental conflict may experience feelings of anxiety or feel pressure to divide their loyalty between parents.

There are things you can do to help your child manage family conflict here.

When conflict becomes aggression

Anger and conflict between parents and teenagers is a normal part of family life, and often very prevalent in teenagers who are going through big physical and emotional changes. However when conflict turns into aggression or violence, it may be time to get help. Young people that are exposed to violence or abuse in the family home, or other parts of their life, are more likely to become violent themselves. If you’re concerned about your own safety, or the safety of other family members, then contact 1800RESPECT, a national domestic family violence counselling service.