Why Do Families Fight? 7 Common Types of Family Conflicts

Published: March 19, 2019 | Last Updated: August 30, 2023by Jeremy Pollack

The varieties and types of family conflicts span a wide range of potential disputes we see in various settings of modern life. Of course, there are numerous reasons a married couple may regularly argue, but reasons couples fight must be an entirely different (and lengthy) article. Hence, this article focuses on the most common family conflicts between family members who are not married. That means adult siblings, parents and children, and extended family conflict. So why do families fight? Here are 7 of the most common issues we have seen family members argue over.

Big family in conflict


Money is a big one, of course. From fighting over inheritance to disagreeing about who will pay for aging parents or family events, family financial conflict is top of the list when it comes to why families fight. If members of a family feel they have been treated unfairly or not given their fair share, they can harbor resentment for years, maybe even a lifetime. That’s because money is often associated with meanings and emotions that run deeply for individuals. They may feel they were cheated, disrespected, or that their entire lifestyle was significantly impacted due to these financial conflicts. Such associations and the resulting painful emotions aren’t easily forgotten. That’s why a family fighting over money can be so devastating, and why this type of matter must be dealt with and resolved as quickly as possible.

Family Business

Several families are engaged in a family-run business, often started by a single family couple and then passed down to the couple’s children who must find ways to work together. Also, siblings tend to go into business together.And why not? It’s difficult to trust people these days, and we should be able to trust our siblings, right? Unfortunately, there ends up being all types of conflict in family business. Partnerships are hard, regardless of whether the partners are related or not. But when partners are family members, the business conflicts often spill over into extended family conflict. Non-invested siblings can get pulled in to the ordeal; cousins can build animosity toward each other; even elderly parents may be brought in to take sides with brother-business partners.

In-Law Related Conflict

You know the scenario; it’s a cliche at this point. Unfortunately for those experiencing in-law related conflict, however, the stress is all too real and relentless. From mother-in-law conflicts with daughters-in-law to mother-in-law son-in-law conflict, personality clashes in families are rampant when taking on a new set of parents or a new adult as part of the family. Sure, the couple is in love…but couples must remember they are not only marrying their spouse; they are marrying his or her family as well. So each partner better be sure they know what they are marrying into, because people don’t change very easily. That means the mothers-, fathers-, sons-, and daughters-in-law you know on the day of the marriage will likely be the ones that stick around for good. If you’re hoping they will change, you’re probably in for a rude awakening. Typical arguments in wife and mother-in-law conflict, for instance, might revolve around: how to treat her husband, how to raise the children, how to spend money more responsibly, and so on.

Conflict Over Family Events

Events are stressful without any interpersonal problems thrown into the mix. Planning takes work, money, and time, and when things don’t go as planned, it can cause a lot of anxiety. Perhaps the stress related to an event is one reason interpersonal issues often emerge, and certainly interpersonal problems add to the stress. Families often argue about topics related to major and even minor events, on issues such as: who is on (and who is left out of) the invite list, who is paying for what, which dates work for everyone, the location of the event, and who to use as vendors. Everyone involved construes their own needs as top priority…which makes resolving family arguments about events pretty difficult.

Couple having family conflict


Sibling Conflict Over Care of Elderly Parent

As parents age, siblings are typically responsible for how to care for their elderly parents. Some people feel the best place for their parents will be in one of the children’s homes or in an assisted living facility, while others feel they should remain in the family house or in a retirement community. There are no easy answers as to what should be done about caring for elderly parents, and so sibling conflict over the care of an elderly parent can foster stubbornness and deeply felt anger between siblings or any other parties responsible for an aging loved one.

Stepparent-Stepchild Conflict

Adopting a stepchild is a serious and emotional endeavor; but accepting a stepparent is probably even more serious and more difficult. Certainly, when minor children live in a household with a stepparent they do not like and/or who doesn’t much like them, the family unit is set-up for strife and resentment. Even grown children of a parent who remarries can find themselves at odds over their parent’s choice in a new partner. And when children are affected, especially small children, other members of the family may be drawn into the stepparent-stepchild conflict. If the problems are obvious and worsening, grandparents, uncles, and aunts may throw in their two cents, which can create further conflict between them and the new step-parent or even the biological parent. Of all types of family conflicts, stepparent-stepchild conflict may be the most difficult to witness, since it can directl involves young children.

Divorced Parents Conflict Over Care & Discipline of Children

Of course, there could be (and are) entirely separate articles on the topic of divorcee arguments. Putting aside financial matters for a moment, the proper care and discipline of shared children is a central point of contention for many divorcees. One parent may have a more rigid style, for example, while the other is more lenient. Each parent then feels much of their effort is being dissolved as soon as the child leaves to go to the other parent’s home. This can be frustrating and sometimes enraging. Co-parents that work together amicably are a blessing to see. Co-parents who are regularly arguing are often extremely stressed by the conflict with their former spouse. Sometimes it is better for the ex-partners simply not to communicate, or at least to communicate as little as possible and only then about very logistical matters related to the child (i.e. the schedule, a field trip, etc.).

Getting Help With All Types of Family Conflicts

There is no easy fix for dealing with any type of family conflict. Some of the time, one motivated family member can lead the charge in handling family conflict in order to resolve family arguments and help all parties move past the issues. Often, however, families cannot seem to resolve the conflict on their own. To effectively manage all types of family conflicts after internal attempts have failed, it would be prudent to hire an expert in family conflict resolution strategies.

For immediate help with a family dispute, contact Pollack Peacebuilding. We’re passionate about helping families find and maintain peace.


Jeremy Pollack

Jeremy Pollack is the Founder and CEO of Pollack Peacebuilding Systems.