Researchers at the University of Oregon found that “The level of aggression between partners around the time a baby is born affects how the mother will parent three years later, research shows.”  Specifically, there were looking at whether psychological aggression by parents of infants–in particular name calling, arguing, door slamming, and so on–would affect the parents and their children a few years down the road. The short answer? It sure does.

The bottom line is that moms (the study didn’t include dads) who engaged in high levels of conflict around the birth of a  baby had a harsher parenting style when their children were three. And, not surprisingly, children who were raised by harsh parents were more likely to have behavioral problems than those whose parents were nicer.

“We have long been aware that high levels of family conflict can have a negative effect on children’s development, but most people tend to think that this doesn’t apply to babies. In fact, we are now finding that this notion of toxic stress in families applies to babies as well,” said Philip A. Fisher, a professor of psychology at the UO and scientist at the independent, non-profit Oregon Social Learning Center. “We are finding that people should mind their relationships with their spouses, not just with their babies.”

The study appears in the current issue of the Journal of Family Psychology. Read an abstract of the study here.