Divorce mediation helps parents minimize their conflict and restructure their connection to form a new parenting relationship even before the completion of the divorce. Litigation often focuses on why one parent is ineffective and inferior prompting more anger and more conflict.
Many people in Wisconsin are aware of the negative impact of high conflict and violence on older children as they learn that conflict is either loud (or even violent) or avoided altogether. They eventually enter into their own destructive relationships. Sometimes, parents minimize the impact of high conflict and violence on infants and very young children saying, “He’s only a baby – He doesn’t know what’s going on.”
In fact, high conflict and violence between parents interrupts key aspects of development in young children. Several primary aspects of infant’s development includes taking information in through their senses, having their needs met and forming secure attachments. Loud noises including screaming and shouting may actually affect the brain as it is rapidly developing neurons connections. Infants constantly subject to violent visual images and loud noises may exhibit the “startle reflex.”
The startle reflex is the infants’ response of mind and body to a sudden unexpected stimulus, such as a flash of light, a loud noise (acoustic startle reflex), or a quick movement near the face. In human beings, the reaction includes physical movement away from the stimulus, a contraction of the muscles of the arms and legs, and often blinking. It also includes blood pressure, respiration, and breathing changes.
The muscle reactions generally resolve themselves in a matter of seconds.
The other responses take somewhat longer.
The startle reflex involves four distinct parts:
- spreading out the arms (abduction)
- unspreading the arms (adduction)
- Crying (usually)
Infants that are repeatedly reacting with the “startle reflex” will be more distressed and less likely to be able to take in information. Parents in high conflict are also less likely to be able to consistently respond to their infant’s needs, which may interfere with the child’s ability to form relationships.
Toddlers become active explorers of their environment and learn about their world through play. High conflict including shouting, hitting, violence, will inhibit their ability to explore and learn about their world. As they begin to play, as with older children, they may imitate the violence they see. Toddlers will move toward independent behaviors (often a source of the “terrible twos”) both physically (dressing, toileting) and emotional (self-comforting). Toddlers surrounded by high conflict are exposed to instability and fear which will often inhibit their learning independence. In fact, many will regress in behaviors.
Mediation will not eliminate all conflict between couples. People who are
sincerely interested in learning how to resolve conflicts in a healthier
way will benefit enormously.
|Key Aspects of Development||Potential Impact|
||Brain is rapidly developing formation of neuron connections maybe affected.|
||Vivid visual images associated with violence can be distressing|
||Interference with relationship with primary nurturer|
||Parents may not be able to consistently respond to children’s needs|
|Become active explorers of their world and learn through play||Fear and instability may inhibit exploration and play; Imitation in play may be related to witnessed aggression|
|Learn about social interaction in relationships from what they hear and observe in their families||Learn about aggression observed interactions|
|Learn how to express aggression and angry feelings, as well as emotions, in appropriate ways||Learn unhealthy ways of expressing anger and aggression. Possibly confused by conflicting messages (what I see versus what I’m told)|
|Egocentric thinking||May attribute the violence to something they have done|
|Forming ideas about gender and relationships||Learn gender roles associated with violence and victimization|
|Moving toward more independence emotional and physical (ex. dressing self learning self-comforting techniques)||Instability may inhibit independence; may see regressive behaviors|