Dubai: It is normal that from time to time in any marriage that tempers flare; angry words are spoken between two people when they argue. But what happens when parental arguments are witnessed by children?

Dr Naresh Dhar, a psychiatrist at Welcare Hospital, says that the effects can be significant. He states that from the ages of 5 to adolescence parental disputes can result in a child becoming afraid and lacking in confidence, especially if the child lacks a strong personality.

"Disputes can undermine parental authority and cause anxiety and stress in children. They can affect a child's performance in school and their ability to deal with day to day issues."

Waiting time

British national Julian Garner, 43, who has a 3- year-old son, says that he and his wife tend to wait until the boy is in bed if they have a dispute. "Maybe we've had one argument in front of him, though my wife and I don't fight that often," he said.

Khalid Mohammad, 28, is from Bahrain and has two children, 3 years and 18 months. "Sometimes we argue in front of the children. The youngest is too young to know, but our 3- year-old has seen it. He gets a little afraid because I am angry".

Guy Ndiaye, 40, from Senegal on holiday with his wife and two children, told Gulf News that he never argues with his wife since the two live in separate cities, due to working conditions. "We see each other about once a month, so we don't fight when we are together".

So how do children feel when they are witness to their parents' arguments? Janine Apa, 13 and from the Philippines, says that she has seen her parents arguing. They have been married for 15 years. "They argue a lot. It's hard. You get depressed; studies are affected as well as other things. They fight about money, about us kids, about other things too."

Sisters Sara, 16, and Arwa Al Beloushi, 15, are from Oman. "Of course our parents argue. They have been divorced twice from each other and are now back together again. Since our brother passed away in cyclone Gonu our parents have stopped arguing with each other. Before that they would fight sometimes, but they would always go to their room so that we didn't have to see or hear them."

Dr Mandar Bichu, father of two daughters and a Sharjah-based paediatrician and editor of, concurs.

"The psychological make up of a child is defined by his or her environment, so parental interaction shapes their world view. When parents argue it sends the signal that the secure cocoon of the family has cracks. This is a scary experience for a child. Friction between parents is bound to be passed on to every member of the family. Long term, this can leave children insecure in dealing with the outside world."

Constant carping: Courts tell mum and dad to rein in their ire

Squabbles over the remote control or whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher are the bedrock of daily family life. But mothers and fathers who insult each other in front of their children may now find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

Australian courts have begun ordering parents to refrain from making offensive remarks, claiming that constant carping between couples can damage young minds. The orders relate not only to expletive-laden abuse, but to any remark that might be used by one parent to turn a child against the other. The type of comments that have attracted judges' opprobrium include many seemingly innocuous ones, such as references to 'Your silly mother' or asking 'Has your father got a job yet?'.

The new judicial approach came to light after a ruling by a federal magistrate, which was later backed by the Australian family court, in which an estranged couple in dispute over custody arrangements were told to stop backbiting in front of their three-year-old daughter.

The mother breached the order by insulting her former boyfriend during a telephone conversation in the child's earshot. That breach, together with other contraventions, was used against her, leading to the father eventually being awarded primary custody of the girl.

- The Telegraph Group Limited, London 2007

Your comments

Time spent wisely with your kids is the best investment. In this busy life where you seldom get time to enjoy with family and kids, parents can avoid such arguments, especially in front of their kids.
Posted: July 29, 2007, 15:17

I hope the report is a eye opener for many, and I request all parents to not only read the report but understand it and make their child's life better. After all marriage is a game of compromises.
Posted: July 29, 2007, 13:48

This report is noteworthy since it conveys the basic lessons that essentially have to be learnt by all parents. The children who are brought up in a family where mutual regard, tolerance and love exists are, of course, confident in life and maintain those qualities in their own life and to the society.
Posted: July 29, 2007, 12:11