Children who live in high conflict homes and who have parents who argue on a frequent basis also tend to be more vigilant about the emotional states of others according to a recent study. The results of the study can be found in he Journal of Family Psychology. What the study showed was that children who grow up in high conflict homes have different methods of emotional processing than children who grow up in homes where there is little conflict. The study also suggests that kids who come from homes where there is a lot of conflict also face greater social challenges as they grow up. These children learn to be extra vigilant about the emotions of others at a much younger age, and this can create social difficulties late in life.
During the study on kids from high conflict homes and the emotional states and hypervigilance that these homes can create in children the mothers filled out an extensive questionnaire. The kids in the study were shown a variety of pictures that depicted couples in different poses and emotional states. The couples were in neutral poses, happy poses, and angry poses. The questionnaires filled out by the mothers allowed researchers to group the children in the study according to high conflict or low conflict in the home. The brain activity of the kids was monitored as they viewed the different photos. When kids from high conflict homes were shown angry couples their brain activity on the EEG was much higher. Alice Schermerhorn, Ph.D, University of Vermont assistant professor of psychological science and the lead author of the study, explained. “They’re being watchful in the home in the same way that they’re watching for angry faces in the research setting.”