During the early stages of a healthy development, the environment of a family, which is largely shaped through practices of parenting, gives an infant a sense of emotional and physical security that ultimately leads to development of skills of self-regulation which are needful for emotional and physical health. Particularly, marital conflict can be distressing for children as it can result to climate of unpleasantness in the family which threatens the emotional and physical wellbeing of a child; this diminishes the emotional or physical availability and sensibility of these parents. Marital dissolutions which result from discord in the marital life are also linked to the increased hardships financially together with other stressors. Marital conflict thus has adverse effects to the physical health of a child.
According to Mona, (2001, p. 880), children who live with two biological parents live to be healthier as compared to children who grow up in other family arrangements like single mother, step-parent or grant-parents, irrespective of their level of income. When these children attain adulthood, surveys have shown that they usually have better physical healthy and longer span of life (Wood et al 2007). It is common knowledge that divorce can affect a child’s social, psychological, academic wellbeing, and can lead to greater incidence of risky behaviors that affects their health (Amato, 2001, p.360). Looking specifically at the health outcome for children who have their parents divorcing before attaining age 17 they end up having shorter lifespan especially male and having more chronic and acute health conditions for both sexes as compared to children who had their parents remain in marriage life (Lachman & Maier, 2000, p. 185). For instance, the chance of a child to be diagnosed with asthma has higher likelihood for unmarried parents and for those not living together, after making income levels to be constant. The occurrences of emergency visits to hospitals for attacks by asthma increases proportionally with more tenuous and distant parent relationships, that is from cohabiting to married to not living together (Harknett, 2005). In addition, research has supported that discord in marital life and conflict between parents is a better illness predictor in the later times of life of the children. It is interesting to note that children of highly negative and distressed couples have increased levels of hormones related to stress in their system, and this marks for the presence of chronic physiological stress (Troxel & Matthews, 2003, p.37).
Children growing up in homes exemplified by parental conflict and threatened or actual parent departure may be at greater risk for mental and physical health problems following their failure to build up social aptitudes and efficient behavioral and emotional regulatory skills. As a matter of fact, more than two decades of research have suggested that dissolution and parental marital conflict are associated with a wide variety of adverse mental health outcomes amongst children, which include suicide, depression, anxiety, hostility and aggression (Paine, 2010, p. 713). Irrespective of many of these emotions and behavioral predicaments like hostility, depression, and anxiety are themselves independent risk factors for chronic physical ailment at adult age (Troxel & Matthews, 2003, p.43); approximately, there are fewer studies evaluating the impact of dissolution and parental conflict on the physical health trajectories of children. Nonetheless, projections have suggested that between 49-60 percent of children born within the last ten years will at some time live households of single-parents, following a separation or divorce. Additionally, estimates have suggested that more than 20 percent unbroken couples can be classified as distressed in the marital life. Therefore, understanding the influence of marital structure and process may be having crucial implications to public health.
Epidemiologic data has suggested that children who come from families which have divorced have increased rates of vulnerability to physical health and other unintentional injuries. As compared to other children who live with their biological parents; however, the effect sizes are generally minute for moderation when controlling for pertinent covariates like socio-economic status. Notably, socio-economic declines following separation or divorce may represent a conduit through which divorce affects the health of children. Studies have as well indicated that, adolescents from families which have been divorced have a greater risk for behavioral risk factors which are linked with physical health problems, which include sexual promiscuity, substance abuse, and lower level of attaining education. Adults who were faced with parental divorce while still at childhood age had have less likelihood of attending college, their employment prospects are low together with their welfare (Harknett, 2005). This implies that they will have limited financial resources as compared to their counterparts raised in families which were continuously intact. In addition, they have higher likelihood of having predicaments in relating with their parents and siblings and in formation and maintenance of other intimate relationships. Combining these findings give a suggestion that the system of parental marital status may not just have impact on the health of a child, but may as well result to accelerated risk into adulthood through predictable biophysical conduits (Lachman & Maier, 2000, p.185). Contemporary developmental psychology trends have emphasized that both unhealthy and healthy development leads to transactional process between characteristics of a dynamic and vibrant environment. In line with this perception, most researchers make argument that the variables of a family structure like single parenthood and divorce are the basic proxies for variables which are more process oriented, like parental conflict which lead to inadequate parenting. However, these are not ideal alternates and hence, they may not fully capture the pathways through which disruption and marital conflicts impact the health of a child. In conformity with the process-centered perspective, research has suggested that children who live in non-divorced but high conflict families have higher rates of problems in psychological adjustment as compared to the ones in intact or low conflict families (Troxel & Matthews, 2003, p.40). Additionally, the collective impact of parental conflict on the adjustment of a child could result to extra conflict in a family which creates a recurring intensification of child and parent problems.
The relationship that exists between marital conflict and the children emotional and physical health is well-known. There is significant evidence that the physical health of children and physiological reactivity to conflict between couples are affected negatively by discord in marriage. Nonetheless, there is significant variability degree in the responses of children to marital conflict and protective and risk factors in the relationships between marital conflict and the functioning of children have been drawn in. Marriage conflict appraisals have been noted as factors influencing associations between conflict between parents and children externalizing and internalizing the problems, and there is empirical support for this proposition. Conflict amongst adults causes anger, fear and distress in children, while exposure to extreme and regular parental marital conflict is linked with problems in the behavior of children and difficulties in physical health. The style of responding amongst children in relation to conflict between adults is somewhat stable over time; and has suggested that long-term health problems and adjustments develop due to regular maladaptive coping patterns in response to chronic stress like parental conflict. Marital conflicts lead to worse situations like divorce. One of the crucial factors that explains the relationship between marriages and longevity and better physical health is the high cost of health. In this view, divorce is not simply about losing marital status together with its positive health benefits. Rather it entails the occurrence of both chronic and acute emotional and physical stress which results from traumatic disruptions and breaking of the fundamental adult connection. Divorce carries with itself substantial illness and premature death risks amongst children together with their parents. Children brought up in families which end up breaking as a result of conflicts, have higher likelihood of developing cardiovascular diseases as compared to their counterparts brought up in intact families. It is worth noting that children who grow up in families marred with conflict are faced with life threatening challenges. These comprise of exposure to danger due to lack of a reliable person to take care of them. Although these children may be left under the care of close relatives, the relatives may not be efficient enough to offer them the necessary protection and care.
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