Arguing in Front of Your Baby Just Took on a Whole New Meaning

This Just In 15


A new infant brain study has found that babies notice arguments and react to them even when they are asleep -- which may make you think twice about having a good old-fashioned verbal fight with your husband if your little one is nearby.

Researchers at the University of Oregon took a look at 20 babies, all of whom were between the ages of 6 and 12 months. The infants' brain activity was measured using a functional magnetic resonance imaging scanner while the babies were listening to phrases being read in different emotional tones.

And the results of the scans were pretty interesting, to say the least.

Of the 20 babies studied, those who were from "high-conflict" homes reacted the most to angry tones of voice.

Researcher Alice Graham says, "Even during sleep, infants showed distinct patterns of brain activity depending on the emotional tone of voice we presented."

In a nutshell, your kid can still hear you fighting even if he's asleep, because duh -- his brain is still awake and senses what is going on.

And I guess that means my husband and I can go ahead and add one more huge parenting fail to the list of stuff we screwed up on. Neither of us has ever been shy about the fact that the first year of our son's life was a huge adjustment, and having a baby in the house led to us having our fair share of arguments. (Isn't that the case with all new parents?)

For the most part, we tried our best not to have any sort of heated discussions in front of our son. But I'm almost positive we argued in front of him while he was sleeping in the car seat, stroller, or bouncy seat in our living room on more than one occasion. We simply figured he couldn't hear us, so it wouldn't hurt to get things out in the open and resolve whatever conflict was brewing between us.

But after hearing about this study, I feel kinda bad. I hate the thought of our little guy subconsciously being able to sense tension in the house, and I only hope we didn't stress him out and ruin him for life or anything like that.

Gah. Can't parents do anything right? I guess in the unlikely event that we ever have another baby, we'd better just sit there and duke it out over text messages instead of having any sort of arguments out loud.

Do you fight in front of your baby?


Image via Mary Fischer

baby development, baby first year, baby sleep


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Lovin... LovinJerseyMama

We have arguments in front of our children. That's life, and kids need to know its okay to be upset or frustrated. Do we scream at eachother or throw stuff around? No. But we talk things through and at the end of it we always tell each other we love each other. Life is full of conflict and I want my kids to understand that and learn how to work through it, not avoid it. 

Cecily Kimmet

I'm happy to say my husband and I do not argue. My first marriage was full of arguments, and physical abuse, I walked away telling myself no more of that stupid crap. My husband came out of his last marriage full of arguements too. We both went into our marriage knowing that fighting is stupid and wasn't worth the time. If we are frustrated with each other we talk out it calmly.... We do not raise our voices to each other, and we never let it get too far.


Amber Kline

i agree with jerseymama, my husband and i have 2 children, and we live very busy lives, there isnt always time to set aside to have our discussions away from the children, and when we need to talk about things we do, granted on the occasions we do have alone time to talk that's when we do most of our heated arguing. you cant keep a child in complete lock down from all emotions or they will never no how to resolve conflict. now I'm not saying we go all out fist in the air or anything like that, and we never take it to the extreme where its going to scare our children, but if we have something on our minds that we need to talk about we talk about it. and after our discussion we hug and kiss and tell each other we love them, and we tell our children we love them and that mommy and daddy are not mad at each other, we just need to talk about things to make it better.

adiggs87 adiggs87

My husband and I do not argue in front of our kids. Im happy to say we barely ever have arguments... 


Reen1 Reen1

There is a big difference between disagreeing in front of your child, and having an argument or fight. Children need to witness their parents at some point or another disagree with one another and be able to communicate and work through it to the end resolution. This helps them learn that it is ok to disagree with others, and that the course of action is to communicate your way through to the end in a civil and intelligent way.

Having a fight in front of your children is not ok. It is scary and confusing to them and they are not seeing their parents communicate and resolve anything.. they are just witnessing chaos (in their little minds). I have not been perfect in this, but one of the things my husband and I definitely make a conscious effort to not do is have arguments or fights in front of our kids. If we disagree strongly on something that needs to be discussed in the immediate and around the children, we do it civilly and communicate to a resolution. We both grew up in abusive homes and we don't want our children to have to go through feeling the feelings we felt as children...

ashjo85 ashjo85

We don't fight in front of the kids ever, husband has very limited patience with our older one. Discipline routinely devolves into yelling, him at her, her back at him. And I've often wondered if this affects our younger one, our 8 month old. Who no longer even seems upset at the yelling. I think I'M the one who gets most upset when the yelling starts.

Jennifer Kinghorn

My ex husband used to beat me in front of our baby. He even hit me when I was holding her and "accidentally" hit her in the head when she was 2 months old. She screamed of course.  I divorced him and never looked back when she was 3 but the damage is done. Shes got so many trust issues and stress issues and they are directly related to his anger that she witnessed. If you can help it, dont fight in front of your kids. 

Shannon Krisko

Healthy arguing with public resolutions is healthy for a kid to witness and mirror. Healthy is the key word.

Mommy... Mommyof3hree

Ah the wonderful world of technology! I think that a face to face discussion over what it bothering you is much better than over text message. I think it means more. If y'all do slip up and have an argument in front of the kids, I believe it is also good to see y'all make up as well. Arguing is a part of life. It is a crucial social skill that children need to learn. I think that yes sometimes it is wrong to argue around them only when it is about them. I know I am probably totally wrong. But it is just my opinion. I have argued in front of all three of my kids. And I always tell them in the end that Mommy and Daddy still love each other and we still love you.

I have noticed being around babies almost my entire life (my mom was a sitter while I was growing up) that if you are upset about something, you don't even need to say a word and somehow babies know. They have this sixth sense about that stuff. And it seems like automatically they get upset. I always try and stay calm.

tuffy... tuffymama

You can't change the past. If you argued in front of the baby and now you know that was bad, resolve to do better in the future, and pay attention to what you do and say. Nobody's perfect. And like Maya Angelou said, you know better, you do better.

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