Adolescents Who Get Involved in Their Parents' Arguments

Many teenagers don't hesitate to get involved in their parents' arguments. In some cases, it's appropriate, but in others, it's not.
Adolescents Who Get Involved in Their Parents' Arguments
Sharon Capeluto

Written and verified by the psychologist Sharon Capeluto.

Last update: 15 July, 2023

Adolescent children have a more detailed perception of reality compared to younger children and sometimes choose to intervene in their parents’ discussions. This means that at 13, 14, or 15 years of age, they’re already able to understand some relational dynamics, communication styles, and emotional states in themselves or in others. At the same time, we could say that a young person is more confident in what they think and has stronger convictions.

At this stage, the young person can differentiate between what’s right and what’s wrong, according to their belief system. Often, this ability leads them to become involved in matters that aren’t always their direct responsibility, such as arguments that their parents’ arguments.

A common phenomenon: Parental Alienation Syndrome

It’s not uncommon for adolescent children to lean their thinking toward that of one of their parents. Generally, they tend to agree more with one than the other, depending on the style of upbringing, the presence of their parents, and the values that each one has transmitted to them.

If they’ve grown up with their parents separated, this distinction can become much more noticeable due to the Parental Alienation Syndrome . This phenomenon is characterized by the presence of a campaign of denigration and defamation on the part of one parent towards the other. Without objective justification, adults try to convince their child to reject the other parent.

A teen arguing with his father because of parental alienation syndrome.
In Parental Alienation Syndrome, by means of different strategies, one of the parents transforms the child’s consciousness with the aim of preventing, hindering, or breaking their ties with the other parent.

Behaviors and the effects of Parental Alienation Syndrome

These are some of the most frequent behaviors when Parental Alienation Syndrome occurs:

  • Not agreeing to pass phone calls to the child
  • Talking derogatorily about the other parent
  • Belittling and insulting the other parent in front of their child
  • Not notifying the other parent about important events or appointments (school meetings or medical appointments, among others)
  • Preventing the other parent from exercising visitation rights

This is how many children and adolescents end up taking sides with one parent and rejecting the other. In this way, they become involved in conflicts that their parents have with each other and adopt a clearly defined position. This scenario results in an inequitable and less healthy battle of two against one.

Critically thinking adolescents

It would be unfair and irresponsible to say that whenever teenagers get into arguments and discredit one of their parents, the reason is Parental Alienation Syndrome. The truth is that, many times, this phenomenon doesn’t come into play, but rather, minors agree, in some particular situation, with one of their parents, so they choose to give their point of view.

Most young people like to make themselves heard, give their opinion, and let others know their thoughts. This is how they reaffirm their identity and seek to feel validated and recognized. Critical thinking is undoubtedly a very important aspect of adolescent development. It’s the ability to evaluate, question, and analyze existing information without taking for granted the veracity of things, no matter how obvious they may seem.

A teen talking with her parents and looking overwhelmed.
Adolescents who engage in discussions with trained critical thinking may sometimes agree with one parent and sometimes with the other.

Should we allow adolescents to engage in their parents’ arguments?

As we can see, a teenager may get involved in their parents’ arguments for different reasons. Now, some valuable questions we can ask ourselves are the following: To what extent should we allow them to get involved in other people’s conversations? Is it important to give them a say or should we set a limit?

The truth is that there’s no single valid answer to each of these questions. Everything will depend on how each family approaches and solves its problems. In the first place, it’s fundamental to know that it’s not positive for a child to perceive their parents as two opposite poles. In other words, to see one of them as a villain and the other as a victim, unless it’s a particular case.

On the other hand, each family will determine how appropriate or inappropriate it is for adolescents to get involved in the parents’ arguments. In this regard, it’s essential to make a key distinction: Taking an active stance in their parents’ arguments isn’t the same as getting involved in conversations about family issues, such as communication in the home or living together.

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.

  • Gerlad M. Nosich. (2003). Aprender a pensar: pensamiento analítico para estudiantes. Pearson Educación, S.A. Madrid, España.
  • Maida S, A., Herskovic M, V., & Prado A, B. (2011). Síndrome de alienación parental. Revista chilena de pediatría, 82(6), 485-492.
  • Segura, C., Gil, MJ., & Sepúlveda, MA. (2006). El síndrome de alienación parental: una forma de maltrato infantil. Cuadernos de Medicina Forense, (43-44), 117-128. Recuperado en 16 de enero de 2023, de

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