Help! Our Parenting Styles Are Tearing Us Apart

When people think of the causes of divorce, certain scenarios come to mind – infidelity, money problems, in-law issues, domestic violence, and mental illness, but differences in parenting? Now that’s not commonly talked about, but we assure you it’s a very real issue that plagues plenty of marriages.

Traditionally, when someone meets another person, falls in love and decides this is “forever,” they’re thinking about how much debt the person is in, the kind of job they have, how good they look, and how well they treat them.

They’re not giving much thought into how their partner was raised, or how they “feel” about co-sleeping with a baby, letting a baby “cry it out,” sending a three-year-old to preschool, attending church regularly, spanking, punishment, discipline, giving a 10-year-old a cellphone, letting a 14-year-old girl wear a short skirt, or letting a 10th grader go on dates or stay out past 10:00 PM.

Does One’s Childhood Affect Parenting?

Many psychologists would attest that people’s childhoods can and do affect their parenting, for better and for worse. In this MSN article, “Parents’ Childhood Trauma Linked To Mental Health Problems in Kids,” it explained how parents who faced severe stress and trauma in their childhoods were at a higher risk of having children with mental health problems, based on research from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

The study, “Parents’ Adverse Childhood Experiences and Their Children’s Behavioral Health Problems” was featured in the Journal of Pediatrics in July of 2018. The adverse childhood experiences discussed in the study include:

  • Child abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Exposure to violence
  • Substance abuse in the home
  • Estrangement of a parent
  • Death of a parent

"Previous research has looked at childhood trauma as a risk factor for later physical and mental health problems in adulthood, but this is the first research to show that the long-term behavioral health harms of childhood adversity extend across generations from parent to child," said lead author Dr. Adam Schickedanz, a pediatrician and assistant professor at UCLA.

So, what is the link? According to the study, when parents have a history of childhood trauma, such as drug or alcohol abuse in the home, child abuse or witnessing one of their parents being abused, the parent has a higher risk of having mental health problems, a very high risk according to the study. In effect, the childhood trauma can severely impair the person’s parenting abilities, which can lead to a harmful cycle that is passed on from one generation to the next.

Early Childhood Trauma & Parenting

When children are raised by alcoholics or drug addicts, it’s not unusual for them to be physically abused, screamed at, and to have their basic needs neglected. So, these painful memories can certainly resurface when they become parents themselves. If one spouse has had a difficult childhood, research has proven over and over again that it can impact their parenting abilities for the worse.

If a parent has suffered childhood trauma and does not make a conscious effort not to repeat their parents’ mistakes, they can duplicate them. And when such a person marries someone who comes from a stable, loving family who demonstrated healthier parenting behaviors, the couple can clash with their parenting styles.

When There is No Childhood Trauma

Just because a couple has different parenting styles, it doesn’t mean that one of the spouses is necessarily a victim of child abuse. Religious differences, differences in upbringing, and educational backgrounds can influence parenting styles among other things. Even personality differences and views on parenting can be enough to drive a wedge in a marriage. Sometimes the wedge is so big, the marriage starts to break down.

According to Dr. Phil, disagreements over discipline can turn parents against each other, even in the strongest of marriages. One couple disagreed so much about punishing their children that the husband would often leave the house to sleep in a hotel because he believes in spanking, while his wife believed in second chances.

Dr. Phil advises parents to sit down and try to agree on a method of discipline when they’re not having a problem. When parents can discuss it calmly, he says they’re more likely to come up with a plan that they can stick to. He says it allows them to talk about what’s in their children’s best interests instead of “who’s right.”

“Make sure that your child sees both parents following the same guidelines, no matter what the scenario. Once your kids start receiving the same treatment from both parents, they'll stop using your disagreements as a way to avoid punishment,” is the advice on

Age-Related Controversies

Parents who have disagreements in parenting styles will encounter different issues at different ages. Some parents realize dramatic differences in parenting views when their children are infants, while others will notice problems during pre-school, elementary school, or not until high school.

Parenting conflicts often surround:

  • Co-sleeping. Should the baby sleep with us or sleep in a crib?
  • Letting the baby “cry it out.”
  • Bedtime (at all ages).
  • Making a child finish all of the food on their plate.
  • Potty-training.
  • Spanking and slapping.
  • Yelling at the child.
  • Letting the child cry (or getting mad when they do).
  • Sibling rivalry (some parents have zero patience).
  • Disciplinary action over poor grades.
  • What the child wears.
  • Who the child plays with.
  • What the child eats and drinks.
  • What chores the child does or when.
  • The use of video games and electronic devices.
  • Dating and sexual activity (teenagers).
  • Physical punishment.
  • Non-physical punishment – it’s severity and duration.

If you are having so many upsets over different parenting styles, know that you are not alone. If the problem has become unbearable and you’re considering a divorce, reach out to our Los Angeles divorce firm to schedule a free case evaluation.

Next: Don’t Make These Child Custody Mistakes!