An Unexpected Way Your Marital Conflict May Harm Your Teen


It’s common sense that problems within a marriage can impact the children. However, it’s less common to think about how marital conflict may impact a child’s eating habits and possibly even relate to a teen’s development of or increase in dysfunctional eating patterns.


Blodgett Salafia, Schaefer and Haugen (2014) studied the connections between problems in a marriage and teen girls’ problematic eating behaviors. This was not a study focused on eating disorders such as Anorexia and Bulimia. According to this group, “disordered eating” specifically falls into three categories:

  1. A drive for thinness – girls may worry that just gaining a pound means they won’t ever stop gaining weight. Or they worry about being just a bit skinnier. (Feelings about being fat play a role here.)
  2. Dieting – girls eat less than they’d like to or they avoid high fat foods and only eat foods they consider to be slimming (Behaviors about food.)
  3. Preoccupation with food and weight – girls may engage in behaviors to avoid weight gain, like vomiting based on daily negative thoughts about their bodies and weight. (Thinking influences their daily life.)


This particular study addressed marital conflict as seen through the eyes of the teen girls. Teen girls responded to questions about their parents. They rated the frequency and intensity of their parents’ conflict and also gave their opinions on how their parents resolved their problems.

The more conflict that existed in a marriage, the more disordered eating these girls showed. In addition to this, these girls had poorer and less positive relationships with both their moms and dads when conflict was high in the marriage.

The most interesting finding of this study relates to the interaction between the teen-parent relationship, the marital conflict and the disordered eating. When marital conflict was present, teens showed poorer perceived relationships with their parents which led to more disordered eating. Unfortunately, previous research supports the idea that teen girls who engage in disordered eating have high chances of continuing those patterns into adulthood and even have the possibility of developing a true eating disorder.

Tweet this: Marital conflict leads to poorer teen-parent relationships. Together, both may lead to disordered eating.

Why is this the case? It may be that teen girls who live in homes with martial conflict experience their parents to be more controlling and less warm. This experience of losing a sense of independence and feeling emotionally disconnected from parents may impact a girl’s ability to manage her emotional experiences in a healthy way. She may experience negative emotions that are expressed in her manner of managing food and her experience of her body.


  • Manage martial conflict – Marriage researcher John Gottman explains that conflict in marriage is not necessarily a problem. The problem instead tends to be how the conflict is handled.
  • Increase warmth – Have you pulled away from the family due to the stresses in your marriage? Are you emotionally available to your child? Increased physical touch, positive communication and increased involvement in the home may help.
  • Decrease control – this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set limits. However, you may need to assess whether or not your child is able to develop a sense of autonomy and independence – is she able to think on her own about decisions, does she show confidence in her own judgement?

Teen Disordered Eating? Is Your Marital Conflict to Blame?As you can see, I didn’t mention anything about controlling your daughter’s eating habits, changing the food in the home or making sure her weight is stable. The most important part of these findings is the influence of the parent-child relationship and marital conflict. Making changes in these two areas might just change the way your child feels about her body and handles food.

A Christian Perspective

A Biblical perspective on marriage is one that supports the loving relationship between husband and wife. It is one in which husbands are commanded to love their wives and wives are commanded to respect their husbands. The Bible is also clear that when parents do not live Godly lives, their sins are “visited” on their children (Exodus 20:5). An appropriate theology of the word used in this verse does not mean that children must pay for the sins of their parents. On the contrary, in Ezekiel 18:20 we are told that each person must account for his/her own sins–a parent for his/her own and a child for his/her own. However, the “visiting” of sins upon our children is a clear indication that God sees that the sins of the fathers are evidenced in the lives of the children. God looks into our lives and counts the ways a parent’s sin impacts a child.

As parents we may tend to look for the obvious ways in which our ungodly behaviors impact our kids. For example, if we fly into a rage and then see our children yelling at others, we may quickly blame ourselves or our spouse. However, this research helps us become aware that there may be many less obvious consequences of our behaviors. (Click here to visit my Bible Study Blog)

Until next time – Veola

A few limitations to this study:

  • the population studied was primarily Caucasian (94%)
  • the majority of the families showed highly educated parents (>60%)
  • this isn’t a “cause & effect” study – the information found focuses on correlations

References/Further Reading:

Blodgett Salafia, E., Schaefer, M., & Haugen, E. (2014). Connections Between Marital Conflict and Adolescent Girls’ Disordered Eating: Parent-Adolescent Relationship Quality as a Mediator. Journal Of Child & Family Studies,23(6), 1128-1138. doi:10.1007/s10826-013-9771-9

Neumark-Sztainer, D., Wall, M., Larson, N. I., Eisenberg, M. E., & Loth, K. (2011). Dieting and Disordered Eating Behaviors from Adolescence to Young Adulthood: Findings from a 10-Year Longitudinal Study. Journal Of The American Dietetic Association111(7), 1004-1011. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2011.04.012

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The Penny Predicament – It’s Published!

BookCoverImage From createspace

The second book in The Coin Chronicles series – The Penny Predicament – is now published!


Get Your Copy – The Penny Predicament

Haven’t read The Nickel Nuisance? Check it out here.

Here’s a quick synopsis: 

What would a 12-year-old boy do to help save his family from financial ruin? In Jake King’s case, he’d do just about anything. But uncertainty sets in as his plans go awry, his friendships start to fail and his faith takes a few hits. Finding a rare coin worth a fortune might be the answer. But what if it’s not real? Will Jake lose his best friend and his family’s future at the same time? Only God knows and, hopefully, he’ll let Jake in on it.

A sneak peak at the first few pages…

Chapter 1
No New Jersey


I’ve got my ear to my parents’ door and it’s those two words I hear mixed with the clomping noise of my dad’s boots on the wood floor.

I shake my head and whisper them to myself over and over again. “Laid off … laid off … laid off.” They start to sound like a foreign language after I say them too many times. But I know what they mean. They mean that Dad no longer has a J-O-B.

Nope, “laid off” is not the news I expected when Dad came in the house after work today and asked Mom to follow him to their room. When I decided to eavesdrop, I guess I expected something other than …

Laid off.
Without work.

It’s this news that’s causing my heart to beat and a line of sweat to mount on my brow. I grit my teeth and inch even closer to their door. My only prayer is that I can listen in without my own nervous breathing giving me away.

Lucky for me, Mom’s voice grows louder and drowns out some of my noise. “Dex, are you telling me that they laid you off without even two weeks’ pay?”

Dad lets out a big sigh. “Sharon, I told you. It’s the same for all of us. They let five of us go today.”

Dad’s shoes make that clomping sound again, closer to the door and then farther away. Back and forth, back and forth. With each step nearer the door, I feel a jolt of fear that he might find me.

Knowing that eavesdropping is considered a major crime in my house doesn’t matter. I have to hear more, so I stay, biting my lip in anticipation.

The Penny Predicament

No New Jersey!

When his boots grow silent, I suck in a breath and hold it, trying to keep as quiet as I can. Even with my adrenaline pumping, and sweat starting to pour down my face,

I can’t pull myself away!