The objectives of session 2 are as follows:
- To learn about common unhealthy and problematic behaviors associated with couple conflict and parenting
- To learn about healthy and positive behaviors that may help you cope with and manage your couple conflict and parenting
- To identify your own problematic behaviors related to couple conflict and parenting, and how they impact your family
During times of conflict within the couple relationship, there are several problems that can arise related to parenting:
- One or both parents may undermine the authority of the other parent in reaction to a conflict happening with the couple relationship. For example, a child may have been previously told by his father that he was not allowed to go to a social event with friends until his homework was done. But after a heated argument between the parents, his mother may give him permission to go to the event in an attempt to undercut the father’s decision because of lingering negative feelings from the argument.
- During times of couple conflict, one or both parents may attempt to form an alliance with their children against the other parent in an effort to have someone in the family on his or her side. This can happen in subtle or overt ways. For example, a father who is upset with his wife may expose her recent mistakes on her job to their children in an attempt to get the children to agree with him that her career is failing. This would be an example of a very negative way of dealing with conflict that originated between the couple, as roping the children into it will have a negative effect on the whole family.
- Another way that marital conflict can affect parenting is via “spillover.” This occurs when negative emotions and behavior that happened within one subset of the family unit – for example, between two parents (i.e. parental dyad) – spills over and negatively colors the emotions and behaviors occurring within another subset of the family such as a parent-child dyad. In this way, emotional and behavioral processes are transferred to another part of the family, often subconsciously by one or both parents. For example, if an argument occurs between a couple that puts the mother in a bad mood, and she in turns reacts negatively to her daughter when she comes home from school (when she otherwise would not have), this would be an example of spillover. Spillover can be positive when positive interactions between the parents in a family set the tone for the rest of the family. However, spillover is usually negative when there is poorly managed conflict within a couple who are also parents.
These issues typically extend to other areas of the parent-child relationship and their respective behaviors.