Family conflicts: types and how to solve them

The conflicts / family conflicts are very common and have particular characteristics, and that is situations with a high emotional content. On the other hand, the relationship between the parties is maintained over a long period of time.

Conflict is a situation in which two or more parties are perceived or expressed as incompatible. They can arise in different areas of our daily life in a habitual way and if they are handled in the right way they can become positive to bring about changes and new ways of relating.

Family conflicts

In addition they generate a high degree of discomfort, because the person is not only affected by his pain, but by the damage that can feel the other person, for which he feels a deep appreciation.

Family conflicts

Types of conflicts

In the year 1973 Deaths makes a classification of the conflicts according to the qualities of the same ones:

  • True conflict: it is that which exists objectively, and therefore the parties perceive it as such. It manifests itself openly and is evident.
  • Contingent conflict: it is the one that occurs in a situation of easy solution but it is not perceived thus by the parts. The confrontation is generated for a reason that can actually be easily solved. This type of conflict is very common in disputes with and among adolescents.
  • Displaced Conflict: the opposing parties express their discomfort for an event or situation that is not really the reason for the discomfort. What the person argues as the cause of the conflict is not really the main cause that has produced it. This type of conflict is habitual that arises in the relationships of couple.
  • Poorly attributed conflict: it is one that does not really face the parties, but there is a third instance responsible for this situation.
  • Latent Conflict: is one that should occur openly but not so. The conflict is perceived but not manifested, which prevents it from being solved.
  • False conflicts are those that occur without an objective basis for them to happen. They are those that are generated from misinterpretations, misunderstandings, false attributions to the other person, etc.

Types of conflict in the family context

Due to the relationships established and the characteristics of the members that comprise them, there are different typologies of conflict in the family:

1- Conflicts in the couple

They are those that appear because of the fact that each person acts, thinks and feels differently. It is inevitable that couples appear situations of conflict or crisis, which if resolved correctly will help the personal growth and the partner.

Most of these confrontations have their origin in misunderstandings that arise in a daily way. Some of the elements that cause these misunderstandings are:

  • Bad communication. Usually and especially when we are angry we use a way of expressing ourselves that may not be the most appropriate. At this time we usually explain our discomfort in the form of reproaches to the other person.  We also use the complaint, most of the time making the other person responsible or guilty of what is happening. Another way of expressing ourselves at the moment is to generalize, using expressions such as “always do the same” or “you never listen to me.” We are saying that always without exception the other person behaves in this way that bothers us, although in most cases this is not real, and cause discomfort in the other person. In addition, we often use an aggressive communication style that is not appropriate in this type of conflict, because far from helping solve the problem, it aggravates and contributes to deteriorate the relationship. This aggressive style is characterized by the use of insults, threats or lack of respect.
  • When one or both members have the feeling of loss of freedom because of the relationship.
  • The attempts to change each other in their way of being, thinking or even their tastes. This situation generates conflicts very frequently in couples who insist on imposing on the other the way of being or thinking that is considered adequate. It is important to accept that the other person is unique and unrepeatable, so it has its own tastes or ways of thinking.
  • Lack adequate skills to solve problems.

2- Conflicts between parents and children

This type of conflict in turn we can divide it into more specific ones depending on the vital stages.

Conflicts in childhood. This stage is fundamentally characterized by the development of the person towards his autonomy. It is about learning how to do things for yourself, how you are learning what your parents do or other significant people around you. It is in this process towards the autonomy of the child that the conflict usually arises, because the parents do not know how to facilitate this autonomy, because the child has demands that do not match what parents consider appropriate, because the child advances in a direction that parents do not want, etc.

Conflicts in adolescence. This stage that is between the ages of 12 and 18 is characterized by the rapid changes that the person experiences and by a particular emotional instability. Also at this moment is when they set the main patterns of behavior and values ​​that will rule your life. In addition, the goals of adolescents are often not in accordance with the goals of the parents. Often this stage is where more conflicts and difficulties of relationship arise and also in which the generational differences are more clearly manifested.

Conflicts with adult children. This type of conflict usually arises from the different ways of deciding, organizing or living two people who are already adults and impose their rights to think and act in the way that each considers more appropriate.

3- Conflicts between siblings


The confrontations between siblings are very habitual and natural. They usually last a short time and they end up solving for themselves, without the intervention of the parents. This is very important because it serves as teaching to resolve conflicts in adult life with other people without the need for a third party to intervene.

4- Conflicts with the elderly

This stage can be especially conflicting in the family environment because the person who enters the elderly lives a series of very significant changes. At the biological level, although the individual is well, some aspects deteriorate, the body grows older, they are slower in their movements, they lose vision and / or hearing, they suffer memory loss, they have less strength, etc.

At the social level, a series of critical events such as retirement, the birth of the grandchildren, the loss of loved ones like the spouse or siblings, and so on.

All these events can be lived very dramatically if the person does not face them with the right attitude and contribute to the emergence of conflicts with other family members.

7 Tips for solving conflicts

The main thing is to understand conflict as an opportunity to grow, to find new ways and plans of communication.

It is advisable to be able to solve the problems that arise within the family, without having to seek the help of third parties, because this will teach us strategies to solve problems in other areas and will prevent the relationship from deteriorating.

Also Read: What is aggressiveness?

Some of the strategies that we can put in place to solve the problems are:

1- Active Listening

This type of listening is what we do when we are attending to what the other person wants to transmit and the other person knows that we understand. With this strategy you can avoid many misunderstandings if before answering we make sure we have understood what the other person wants to say or express.

2- Care the way you talk and express yourself.

As we have seen in the section on couple conflicts, when we are angry we do not usually express our discomfort in the most appropriate way. It is about replacing the reproaches with which we blame the other part of what happens by the expression of what we feel or what hurts us of the situation.

It is about explaining what we want without harming the other person. In addition to avoiding the deterioration of the relationship will help us to find a solution to the problem. It is also important not only to express what is bothering us, but rather to propose alternatives or solutions to the problem.

3 – Allow the participation of all parties involved in the discussion

Equally important is that we express what causes us discomfort, as the other person does. It is very common for family discussions to take the floor off each other.

With this we are prioritizing what we mean, instead of listening to what others want to convey, but both are necessary.

4- Show affection

 Even if we are in conflict with relatives, they are still people we love and value and it is important to let them know. In many occasions expressing affection reduces the tension that the conflict produces.

5- Look for collaboration

Before a conflict the usual thing is to look for who wins and who loses in the dispute. But what is appropriate is to find a common point and work to solve it together. In this way all the members obtain a satisfactory solution, they look for solutions thinking in the needs and interests of all the members.

6- Look for the positive side of things

Usually in the face of a conflict we only see the negative of the situation and even the negative thing that the other person does or says, arriving in many cases to imagine or to guess what the other thinks, putting us in a loop of negativity that only serves us to feel us still worse and hamper the agreement.

Instead of focusing on these negative aspects we can take advantage of the positive aspects of the conflict, see it as an opportunity to talk, to know the other’s point of view, to get to know us better. It is not a matter of denying the conflict, but of using it to advance, to make the most of the situation.

7- Find the right moment and situation to talk about the problem

It is often advisable to postpone a discussion. This does not mean avoiding it or leaving it in oblivion, but looking for a moment in which the emotional charge is less and we feel calmer to control the negative emotions that arise in those moments before the conflict.

It will allow us to express more adequately what we want to transmit and to listen to the other in a more receptive way. It may also be convenient to look for a place where the two people feel at ease in order to be able to talk.

Resources to resolve conflicts

When the conflict goes one step further and the parties involved need the action of a third party to solve them can be managed through different resources:

  • The family therapy. The goal is to help families find a way to collaborate and cope with family conflicts. They will also learn strategies and skills to solve problems.
  • The conciliation. Process by which the parties, before a third party that neither proposes nor decides, contrast their claims trying to reach an agreement.
  • The mediation. It is a legal institution, a neutral third party seeking communication between the parties to reach a satisfactory agreement for both.
  • The arbitration. It is an institution designed to resolve conflicts between subjects of a legal relationship, which consists of the appointment of a third party whose decision is imposed by virtue of the commitment made by the parties.
  • The judicial intervention. It is a process designed to act in the case of conflicts of a legal nature through a mandatory final resolution, issued by State organs.

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