Anyone who’s lived as part of a family knows it’s normal to have rows and disagreements every now and then. Conflict is, after all, a normal part of life. Thankfully, most of the time family quarrels are resolved quickly. But when conflict becomes an ongoing problem at home it can damage relationships, cause stress, depression, anxiety and resentment.
Families may experience relationship difficulties at different stages. For instance, the birth of a baby or sending children to start school can cause stress for young families. Dealing with adolescence can also cause difficulties, not just for teenagers but also parents and siblings. Indeed, each stage of a family’s life can have a seemingly inexhaustible supply of conflict possibilities.
Meanwhile, changes that affect a family’s situation can create tension too, such as:
- moving house
- changing jobs
Here are some other issues often involved in family conflict – do they ever affect you?
If you can’t remember the last time your family had a proper meaningful conversation, chances are you’re suffering from a lack of communication.
Not talking about the issues that affect your lives can cause a lack of understanding between family members, the result of which can be tension and arguments. Families that don’t communicate effectively may also find that disputes erupt quickly, easily and often.
Research suggests people from families with poor communication skills are less likely to say they’re close to one another. There’s also evidence that young people from families that communicate negatively are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.
Ask yourself if any of the following happen frequently in your family life:
- Silence (refusing to talk)
- Name calling
- Keeping secrets
- Issuing threats or using ultimatums
If so, your communication skills may need improvement.
If one parent has a job that keeps them away from home for long periods of time on a regular basis, their partner and children may believe they’re putting work before family. The partner left at home can feel neglected and – if they have very young children – overwhelmed. This is a typical work-family conflict, and in today’s hectic world, achieving a good work-family balance can be difficult for those in nearly all socio-economic groups.
Work-family conflict is a very common problem. In the USA for instance, experts have reported around 90% of working mothers and 95% of working fathers experience work/family conflict to some extent or another. And according to a European Quality of Life Survey, Europeans are more dissatisfied with how much time they spend with their family compared with how much time they spend at work.
There are numerous issues that cause arguments in families, including everything from quarrels over whose turn it is to do the dishes to children failing to live up to their parents’ expectations. Arguments are however an inevitable part of family life. Some experts even believe arguments are essential, since children should learn to voice their opinions – however unpalatable it may be to their parents – to develop into well-rounded adults.
Whose responsibility it is to do the housework can be a particular cause of tension and resentment in couples as well as families. One survey even suggests the sharing of household chores is one of the highest-ranking issues linked with a successful marriage.
Families where couples have very different views on how to bring up children can have a particularly turbulent time. These parents may disagree over many issues, though one of the most common is family discipline and how to set rules for children.
Parenting styles can largely depend on how people are raised themselves and what they experienced in their own family. And when one partner’s parenting style differs wildly from the other’s, it can cause frustration and may even drive parents apart, not to mention create a confusing environment for children to grow up in.
Financial difficulty is understandably a major source of family conflict, especially when parents or couples develop money worries and find themselves unable to pay household bills or go into debt.
Even where there isn’t a lack of money, couples may not agree on how, when or where their money is spent, which can cause endless disputes (some estimates claim discussing family finances causes around 3 arguments a month on average). Indeed, having financial problems or disagreements is often cited as one of the main causes of divorce.
This is the first of a series of 2 articles on family relationships. The second will look at ways to encourage better relationships at home.
How CABA can help
Everything we do at CABA is underpinned by our commitment to provide lifelong support to past and present ICAEW members, ACA students, past and present ICAEW staff and their close families. All of our services are free, impartial and strictly confidential.
If you’d like to find out more about how to cultivate positive emotions and relationships, why not join us on our free one-day course called Authentic happiness: the theory and practice of wellbeing. We also offer a range of emotional support for those who are experiencing relationship difficulties, even if all you want to do is have a chat.