4 Causes of Family Conflict

Father and son, talking together
Father and son talking to each other on a porch. (Image: Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Family harmony provides a sense of belonging and a feeling of security unlike many other types of relationships. When conflict arises, it threatens that security. Whether the disharmony initiates from within the family unit or from external sources, individual family members and the family as a whole can experience a range of negative emotions and consequences. Unresolved conflict may irreparably damage a marriage and the entire family if family members do not seek help.

Finances and Jobs

One major source of family conflict is within the area of finances--specifically, the lack of enough money to pay bills, maintain the mortgage or rent, buy sufficient food and other necessities and have any remaining money for recreation. job or career may contribute to conflict within a family. If a parent’s job keeps him away from home most of the time, the spouse at home with the children often feels neglected or overwhelmed. Conversely, if the parent becomes unemployed, this causes its own form of stress and conflict, as finances dwindle and uncertainty sets in about the future.

Sibling Rivalry

Another cause of family conflict is the inevitable rivalry that occurs between siblings. Children typically seek their parents’ attention and approval, even if this requires tattling on, or sometimes causing harm to, a sibling. Whether a child expresses jealousy of her sibling, competes with him or teases him non-stop, it is destined to cause conflict. Each child deserves an equal amount of parental love and acceptance, yet sometimes a parent may favor one child over another. This merely intensifies the conflict.

Child Discipline

While mutual agreement on the subject of child discipline is crucial, the lack of consensus opens up another potential area for family conflict. If one parent acts as the “disciplinarian,” the other parent typically becomes the “consoler” to whom the children turn -- this often pits one parent against the other.

In-Laws and Extended Family

Jokes and movies abound regarding conflict with in-laws (especially mothers-in-law); however, when you actually become involved in disagreements with your in-laws or extended family, it is no laughing matter. While it is preferable to respect your elders--parents and grandparents on both sides equally--this can prove to be challenging. If relatives routinely interfere in your family’s decisions and lifestyle, conflict frequently results.

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