Marital Conflicts and Child Education

Marital conflicts and child education

Today, I want us to critically examine a topic that will affect our future, society, and our nation – Child Education. I will appreciate it if you will contribute to this topic. Child education in this context means ensuring that a child gets the right education – formal and informal. Everything that needs to be done to ensure that children (from infancy to teenage) acquire the right education. Child education is sometimes called early childhood education.

For a child to get the right education, many things are involved, especially, in a society ravaged by poverty. The situation sometimes brings discord in the family which may lead to disagreement, quarrels, and crisis. When this happens in a family we may term it a marital conflict.

Why child education?

Education could be seen as a process by which society deliberately transmits knowledge, values, and skills through schools, colleges, and other institutions. Hence, good education forms the building block of an individual’s academic development and achievement and contributes immensely to the actualization of the individual’s potentials. Hence, education reflects what a person, society, and nation would be like shortly.

When child education falls below an acceptable standard, it means that society is gradually going into extinction. The persons, society, and nations involved will be engulfed in ignorance, and gradually become dependent on others.

Education is important in any given society; it helps in the development of the innate abilities and capabilities of individuals. Through education, an individual’s physical, emotional, social, cognitive, and intellectual abilities could be developed. According to Ugwuanyi (2003), education is the process by which society establishes to assist the young to learn and understand the heritage of the past, participate productively in society and contribute meaningfully to the development of the society.

Research has shown that child education is important especially during early adolescence. This is because life accomplishment or lack of accomplishment during this developmental transition is a precursor to future academic and occupational endeavors (Elder & Conger, 2000).

Feshbach & Feshbach (1987) noted that social scientists, educators, policy-makers, and parents often emphasize educational success at adolescent age. Unsuccessful academic achievement always leads to negative outcomes such as depression, low self-esteem, drug use, aggressive behavior, criminal perpetrations, and difficulty finding gainful employment.

Pallas (2000) observed that good child education has lasting importance because it represents an individual’s status and can influence subsequent developmental tasks. Such developmental tasks include family relationships, social status, physical health, and mental wellbeing. Good and supportive child education at the early stages in life is the foundation of better academic performance in the future.

What is the problem?

There seem to be a problem with child education in Nigeria. Outside the overall problem with the Nigerian education system which the standard is falling, marital conflict inflicts a major problem. Amuda (2011) noted that one major cause is the separation of husband and wife.

Children that drop out of school and those that hawk and do menial jobs in our environment are on the increase daily. Some jump from one school to another, either because of no school fees or uniforms. Problems facing child education in our environment range from minor to complex.

Some children will give answers like ‘I have not paid my fees; my mother said she doesn’t have money; my father is not around; I am tired of wearing turned school uniform; and many more.

I recently met a teenager who came to me asking for a job. In my curiosity, I asked, “why will a boy like you be looking for work instead of being in school?” But I got a shocking answer. The boy told me that he wants to raise money to pay for his fees. I then inquired of his parents, but he said that they are separated, and none is ready to take care of ‘them’.

This could be one situation in the midst of many. What of those who did not tell you? I became keen to understand the cause of these setbacks and investigated privately only to find out that most families of these are not intact. In some cases, there are frequent conflicts between the parents of the children. This problem leads me to investigate the relationship between marital conflict and child education.

Over the years, investigations on the factors that influence child education have attracted the interest and concern of many teachers, counselors, researchers, and also many school administrators. This is simply because members of the public often complain of the low standard of education in the country.

According to Uwaifo (2008), the declining quality of education in the country and the breeding of graduates with little or no experience, and little technical know-how has resulted in serious setbacks to the industrial development of the nation Nigeria. Studies on child education have often concentrated on the socio-economic status of parents, family structure, and parent-child relationship on academic performance.

Good and supportive academic development at the early stages in life is the foundation of better academic performance in the future. Coffman and Roark (1992), observed that marital conflicts between parents frequently affect their young children which also affects their academic development. Accordingly, adolescents who witness marital violence face increased risk for such emotional and behavioral problems as anxiety, depression, poor school attendance, performance, low self-esteem, disobedience, nightmares, and physical health complaints.

However, Mufson, Moreau, Weissman & Klerman (1993), stressed the point that such victims are more likely to act aggressively during childhood and adolescence which affects their performance at high school. Furthermore, Kendall and Dobson (1993) argued that children who are severely neglected due to marital conflict or divorce may experience a drop in intelligence and an increased risk of depression and suicide. As young individuals, they tend to be hyperactive, easily distracted, and unpopular with their peers.

What is marital conflict?

Marital conflicts include constant disagreement between parents and broken families caused by divorce, separation, illegitimacy, unfaithfulness, and sibling structure. Steinberg and Silk (2002), noted that self-efficacy is a major element for success in the life span and related to the psychological, physical, and social health of adolescence; and the family is viewed as a primary source for adolescent’s self-efficacy and well-being. When there is conflict in the family it directly affects the children negatively, which in turn has a reverberating effect on the academic development of the children.

Marital conflict is a phenomenon that destabilizes couples, disrupts their joy, and is mostly felt by women. It is also the least recognized human rights abuse in the world. According to Rodgers and Pryor (1998), marital conflict is a profound social problem, sapping women’s energy, compromising their physical health, and eroding their self-esteem. Worldwide, information on the amount of conflict in families shows that it is not a rare phenomenon. Conflict, of course, represents a rather extreme example of the failure of supportiveness.

Marital conflicts affect child education. Garmezy (1985), identified the following possible categories as protective components to child education: the personality attributes of the individual child; a supportive family environment; and a support network outside the family that promotes positive coping efforts by the child thus, strengthening adaptability attributes. If families conflict, the children’s education tends to suffer set back.

Marital Conflict and Child Education

The family

The family is the first point of call of every child. When a child is born, he/she is welcomed into a family, which is expected to care for him/her. Every living being has a family, whether intact or separated.

Family can be defined in many ways, for example, Goldenberg and Goldenberg (2000) defined family as:

a natural social system, with properties all on its own, one that has evolved a set of rules, is replete with assigned and ascribed roles for its members, has an organized power structure, has developed intricate overt and covert forms of communication, and has elaborated ways of negotiating and problem-solving that permit various tasks to be performed effectively.

As children began to grow up, members of the same family develop individual identities yet they remain attached to the family group. These family members do not live in isolation, but rather are interdependent on one another – not merely for money, food, and shelter – but also love, affection, companionship, socialization, and other non-tangible needs.

A well-functioning family encourages its members to realize their potentials. They also allow them freedom of exploration and self–discovery, while providing protection and instill a sense of security. This may not be the case in a family that experiences conflicts.

According to Grugni (2004), parents who have too many children, and are engrossed in the material problems of a large family are likely to neglect their children. Such cases will affect child growth negatively. The birth of a child means that the parent’s attention, especially the mother’s, will be shifted towards the new life.

Children are supposed to bring their parents together because they provide them with a common object for their love and concern. However, in some cases, they become a barrier between the parents. But parents ought to assume responsibility for their children’s eternal destiny. They should educate them, prepare them for life and guide them in the right way.

This cannot happen if there is no harmony in the family. Parents also need to recognize that this is their duty towards God, the child, family, and society. Parents are equally responsible for the task of shaping the future of the child. Parent’s presence in children’s lives is of vital importance.

Children need the influence of both parents to shape their personalities in a balanced way. Bringing up children is primarily the role of parents, however, when there is conflict in the family, these roles are shattered bringing adverse developmental effects on the children.

Kiura (1999) says that a child’s attitudes, standards, and values will slowly be formed by what he learns from his or her parent. Thus parents should lead by example. Parents should find time to listen to their children’s problems and joys.

Kiura (1999) also indicated that when children see that their parents love each other, they are assured that their parents love them. He also asserted that parents should always tell their children the reason why they have to beat them and praise their children more often than they punish them.

Effect of marital conflict

Marital conflict negatively affects child education. Researchers have found that there is interdependence between depressed persons and their social contexts. This is especially true in the case of a parent’s depression and children’s adjustment. Marital discord and stress might precede, precipitate or co-occur with maternal depression. In such instances, it may be marital turmoil that is the key factor that contributes to children’s adjustment problems. When there are problems in the home, parents hardly cater to their children, let alone think about their educational development.

Ezeomah, Akpan, and Oyetunde (1999) believed that child education is important because it inculcates the right type of values, norms, attitudes, skills, etc. in children. They emphasized that the behavior of the child later in life is determined by this level of education. Because of the importance of educational development at this stage in life, Nnodium (2001) affirmed that marital conflict put children at risk, thereby laying a devastating base for children’s maladjustment at the secondary school stage, and influencing their educational and social development.

Apart from the home, which serves as the first source of child’s socialization, the school serves as the secondary source of socialization, and at this level, the child’s interaction with the teacher becomes prominent and the role of the teacher as it relates to the child’s educational and social development becomes important. Since the children are relatively young and need guidance, the perception of the teachers at the secondary school level on the causes and effects of marital conflict, as well as suggesting ways in improving the educational and social development of the child becomes necessary and of utmost importance.

Child education is hampered when a child does not have instructional material. Moji, Ijoyah, and Ijoyah (2015) found that the deprivation of instructional materials was among the major causes of the poor academic development of a child. In order of ranking, they found that it was the most serious issue affecting the educational and social development of students as a result of marital conflict. They, however, showed that love followed by encouragement was perceived by teachers to be the major way in improving the educational and social development of pupils from conflict-ridden homes.

Researchers have also provided evidence to show that stress affects the development of the body’s stress response systems that help regulate attention. How these systems work is tied to the development of the cognitive ability of a child.

Hinnant, El-Sheikh, Keiley, and Buckhalt (2013) conducted a study of 251 children from a variety of backgrounds. These children lived in two-parent homes with varying exposures of marital conflict when they were 8, 9, and 10 years. The study provided information on the frequency, intensity, and lack of resolution of conflicts between their parents. The study gauged how children’s stress response system functioned by measuring Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia (RSA), an index of activity in the parasympathetic branch of the body’s stress response system.

RSA has been linked to the ability to regulate attention and emotion. The research also measured children’s ability to rapidly solve problems and quickly see patterns in new information at ages 8, 9, and 10. The results of the research found that children who witnessed more marital conflict at age 8 showed less adaptive RSA reactivity at 9, but this was true only for children who had lower resting RSA. In addition, children with lower baseline RSA whose stress response systems were also less adaptive developed mental and intellectual ability more slowly.

Grych and Fincham (1990) evaluated the link between marital conflict and child maladjustment and suggested directions for future research on processes that may account for the association. They concluded that marital discord is associated with several indexes of maladjustment in children, including aggression, conduct disorders, and anxiety which affects the children’s intellectual and educational development. Their research on the effect of divorce on children similarly indicates that the conflict associated with divorce, rather than the breakup of the family, is primarily responsible for many of the problems experienced by the child during the school age.

Studies in cognitive skills, reading scores, and level of school attendance have reported that marital conflict is detrimental to the life chances of those children involved in the process.

Kim (2011), found children of divorce to be more likely to lag in cognitive skills indexed by math and reading test scores than children of intact families from the in-divorce stage onward. Also, marital conflict, especially, leading to divorce tended to enhance the risk of high school dropout and lower the likelihood of progression to college (Aston & McLanahan, 1994).

Children of marital discord appear to go through a spell of emotional disruption more frequently than their counterparts. Using the National Child Development Study, Cherlin, Chase-Landsdale, and McRae (1998) showed that children of parental conflict were in worse mental health compared to children of intact families even after taking various selection factors into account.

From the foregoing, we observe that children from conflict homes tend to experience stress, anxiety, depression, and many more. These affect their cognitive development and intellectual capacity. This, in turn, affects their ability to cope in school leading to low scores in reading and arithmetic, skill development, and overall educational development. In extreme cases, it may lead to drop out of school and/or limit such a child from going further in academic pursuit.

So far, what can you make out of marital conflict and child education? It simply means that child education will continue to deteriorate so long as there are conflicts in our homes. Child education might suffer as a result of government negligence in the education sector, poor quality of teachers, and many, but our children need informal education to survive.

This kind of education will be missing in a conflict-ravaged home. And when our homes are in constant conflict, our society and nation are in danger. But what should we do to control this menace? Let’s look at the causes of marital conflict.

Causes of Marital Conflict and Biblical Point Of View

Conflict often makes our loved ones seem like an enemy. It puts family members on the opposing side rather than on the proposing side. The truth is that when we start picking a fight with our spouse and, in effect, try to take vengeance, we are not trusting God to fulfill his promise in our lives.

Jesus says, But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you (Matthew 5:44). If we are to love our enemies, how much more we love ourselves because a man and his wife are one flesh.

If we understand the truth in the scripture that says, “recompense no man evil for evil…” (Rom. 12: 17 – 21), then there should be no conflicts in our homes. If we can control conflicts in our families, then child education will triumph in our society. Remember, our child is our future. Child education prepares the future for our society and nation.

Let’s evaluate the following causes of conflicts and how to resolve them:

Faults and weaknesses

Everyone has a fault; a fault is therefore not sinning. Faults could be based on the weaknesses of your spouse’s personality. A person who seems to talk too much is a gregarious kind of person. You may judge that she talks too much, but that’s because you may not talk much at all. She is most likely thinking you don’t talk enough. This is not a conflict about sin; rather, it is a lack of compassion and understanding about who God created your spouse to be.

If your conflict comes from trying to change your spouse, remember that only God can change someone. Let us not allow conflict to separate us emotionally because of our partner’s fault or weakness. Let us learn to ask God to make the necessary changes that only Him can do. Let us abide by the word of God as Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6. We will surely eliminate the conflict between us.

Unintended emotional injury

Someone may hurt your feelings unintentionally, while you are thinking that he/she intentionally did. In a conflict situation, each person thinks he/ she is right. Acknowledging the underlying causes of why this “triggers” you is essential. Most often, things from our childhood are at the root. The person who inadvertently hurt his or her spouse can remember this: “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out” (Proverbs 20:5).

God wants you to compassionately invite your spouse to address her hurt and possibly her wound from the past. The offending spouse will need to walk peaceably by not reacting in kind with anger or hurt. By keeping your cool, you will cover the situation with a calming balm. Remember this, Proverbs 15:1 urges us, “a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).


When we face conflict situations in our marriage, we should remember and appreciate the differences that completed us as a couple. The couple should recognize that one’s preference is not sinful. When we think in one direction, we should also accommodate our spouse that thinks in the opposite direction. Effective communication will always help us clear our differences.


When your spouse sins, he can certainly seem like the enemy. Yet Romans 12:17-21 tells us that we have a choice whether to live peaceably with our enemy. That does not mean overlooking our partner’s sin or doing nothing about it, but it does mean having an attitude of good that is not overcome by evil. In conflict, evil means being angry with our partner and refusing to forgive.

Being angry means that you are trying to be in control instead of allowing God to take charge. This will not get us the result we want. God calls us to righteousness if we are the offended party. This is not self-righteousness, I’m-better-than-you attitude, but a humble heart like the one 1 Peter 3:8-9 describes:

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this, you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

Conclusion and Recommendations


Marriage is the most honorable. When facing conflict as Christians, we should display boldness. We must face the issue head-on and at the same time learn to listen and understand each other with love and compassion. Where there is understanding, the conflict will be far, and the marriage will thrive.


  1. Always create and cultivate emotional trust in your marriage. When the disagreements come, it’s easy to feel like you’ve married the wrong guy. Every marriage has disagreements because we’re two separate individuals (Matt. 19:6).
  2. Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath. Even if the two of you disagree on an issue or there has been a miscommunication in your conversation, decide to have your hearts re-connect before you put your head on the pillow that night (Eph. 4: 26 – 27).
  3. Have faith: Many couples have bickered and quarreled so long that they lose hope things will ever improve. They resign themselves to go on quarreling and hating the rest of their lives, or they end the marriage by divorce (Phil. 4: 13).
  4. Pray for God’s strength. When we have marriage problems, especially serious ones, we need to believe that God will answer prayer. If both the husband and wife are faithful Christians then they should spend much time together and individually praying for God’s help with their problems (1John 4:14).
  5. Respect the bible pattern for authority in the home. We will see that the husband also has God-given guidelines to follow when he makes decisions. Often conflict arises or remains unresolved, because the husband disobeys Bible teachings about how to make decisions or because the wife disobeys Bible teachings about submission (Eph. 5: 22 – 26).


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