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


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

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