Exposure to verbal and physical aggression between parents may hurt a child's ability to identify and control emotions, says a new study.

Household chaos and prolonged periods of poverty during early childhood may take a substantial toll on the emotional adjustment of young children.

"Our study points to ways in which aggression between parents may powerfully shape children's emotional adjustment," said C Cybele Raver, a professor of applied psychology at New York University's Steinhardt school of culture, education and human development.

In a bid to explore how children may be adversely affected by prolonged exposure to such aggression, researchers measured children's exposure to several forms of adversity and how they predicted their ability to recognize and regulate negative emotions such as fear and sadness.

They followed 1,025 children and their families. Verbal and physical aggression between parents from infancy through early childhood significantly predicted children's ability to accurately identify emotions at 58 months of age, found the study.

"Arguing and fighting is psychologically stressful for the adults caught in conflict; this study demonstrates the costs of that conflict for children in the household as well," Raver added.

Increased hyper-vigilance may support children's safety in the short term but may have adverse impact for their long-term emotional adjustment.

"Like children who witness their parents fighting may have trouble regulating their emotions in less risky situations such as a classroom," Raver noted.

"Parents need to help regulate their own feelings of anger, frustration and worry when balancing the demands of work, family and romantic partnership, especially when money is tight," the researchers concluded.

The findings appeared in the journal Development and Psychopathology.

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