Family conflict refers to active opposition between family members. Because of the nature of family relationships, it can take a wide variety of forms, including verbal, physical, sexual, financial, or psychological. Conflicts may involve different combinations of family members. Most research has focused on dyadic marital conflict and parent-child conflict. But other types are significant, such as sibling conflict, coalitions, and feuds between different parts of extended families.
As in any kind of human group, some conflict in families is normal and serves useful social functions. But in excess, certain forms of family conflict can be damaging and even dangerous. Family conflict that is not managed effectively can be a symptom or contributing factor to serious negative outcomes for individuals or families as a whole (Vuchinich 1999). These include marital difficulties leading to divorce, domestic violence, ineffective parenting, antisocial child behavior, child psychopathology, and child abuse. As a result there has been continuing professional interest in how to regulate it. This work has resulted in useful findings and practices in a variety of treatment and prevention programs involving families. These include couple therapy, family therapy, parent training, peer mediation programs, and individual problem solving training for troubled children.