A Toxic Relationship Between Parents, How Does It Affect Children?

When parents have a toxic relationship and don't remedy it, the children are the most affected in both the short and long term.
A Toxic Relationship Between Parents, How Does It Affect Children?
María José Roldán

Written and verified by the psychopedagogue María José Roldán.

Last update: 27 June, 2023

It’s normal for parents to have conflicts, but the problem is when these problems are very frequent. In other words, when the confrontations between the partners are daily and the children see them every day as something habitual at home. This will undoubtedly affect them. That’s why it is important for parents to reflect on this issue. In the following article, we’ll talk about how a toxic relationship between parents affects their children.

Many parents think that if they cover up conflicts, the children won’t find out anything. However, little ones are very adept at detecting a hostile home environment. In this regard, it’s not possible to disguise emotional pain at the end of a tense argument, whether physical or psychological violence is involved.

No matter how young they are, children are capable of sensing if there’s emotional tension in the environment. Moreover, the younger they are, being in the egocentric stage, they feel the pain as if it were their own. They may even think that if something bad happens at home, it’s their fault. And this can have terrible consequences on their development.

How a toxic relationship between parents affects their children

Parents may not be aware that they have a toxic relationship. Even if they do know, they may have become accustomed to it and believe or feel that there are no healthier ways to relate to a partner. This is very serious for children, so it’s crucial to be aware of how this type of relationship affects them.

Parents with a toxic relationship learn to live unhappily and teach their children that love is synonymous with suffering.

They’ll have a hard time maintaining trusting relationships with others

If children don’t feel physical or emotional security from their parents, when they grow up, it’ll be very difficult for them to be able to find trust in others. This can cause them to become emotionally dependent. For example, they may be withdrawn and not have confidence in themselves or in others.
They will feel


When children are always in the presence of their parents’ confrontations, they’ll think that this continuous conflict is normal. In this way, they’ll grow up and think that shouting, insults, bad manners, and even physical or verbal aggressiveness are the normal way to relate to others. They’ll also believe that love is a continuous conflict. Consequently, as adults, they won’t find a stable partner because of the type of relationship they’ll have unconsciously.

Psychological problems

It’s not easy to admit this, but when there’s a toxic relationship between parents, it’s common that in the future, the children will have many insecurities. Also, they may experience frustration and even suffer from dangerous mental illnesses such as depression.

Aggressiveness as something normal

Faced with the toxic relationship of their parents, children will think when they grow up that aggressiveness is the normal way to resolve conflicts. Therefore, they may resort to yelling, hitting, or any other type of violence. In addition, they’ll find it very difficult to control the most intense emotions and, most likely, they’ll have problems with anger management. All this can cause them to become aggressive as adults.

A young girl feels frustrated as her parents argue in the background.
Conflicts at home have a negative impact on children and make them unable to pay attention, thus decreasing their academic performance.

Problems in the academic field

A child who doesn’t feel well emotionally will have trouble concentrating. For this reason, it’s common for them to have problems in school and for their academic performance to be low. This can even be confused with laziness or attention deficit, when in fact, the problem lies in their emotional health.

At school, they may also have problems relating to their classmates and all this will have a very negative effect on their self-esteem. It’s crucial that from childhood, they learn to understand their emotions and manage them. We must be aware that they’re not to blame for their parents’ relationship. If you think you have a toxic relationship with your partner, reach out to a specialist so that your children don’t suffer the consequences in the future.

The damage to children can be irreparable

The influence of parents is essential for the mental health of children. When a relationship between adults becomes toxic or harmful to the child, the consequences will appear sooner or later. Parents may do things with the best of intentions, but without realizing that they are harming their children, as they’re fragile beings that are still developing.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Canales, J.,L. (2014) Padres tóxicos. Editorial: Paidós.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.