Argue Over Money? Your Kids May Suffer

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Children whose parents argue about finances rack up more credit-card debt in their college years than kids of parents who don't fight over money, new research finds.

The findings point to the need for parents to help their children learn good financial skills, the East Carolina University researchers reported online in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues.

The researchers surveyed 413 undergraduates from seven U.S. universities, asking them about their credit card debt, the number of cards owned, their financial knowledge and their interactions with their parents regarding money when the students were younger.

They found that two-thirds of students have credit cards; nearly a third have multiple cards. Juniors and seniors in college were nearly four times as likely as freshman and sophomores to have multiple cards. Women were twice as likely as men to have two or more cards. And students who said their parents argued about money were twice as likely as students who said their parents didn't argue over money to have more than one card.

Extra cards brought extra debt. Students with two or more cards were three times as likely to have credit card debt exceeding $500 as students with just one. Parental money arguments were also linked with the likelihood of carrying a $500 or greater debt load for students.

"It is clear that the influence of parents cannot be underplayed," the researchers wrote. "Researchers, educators and policymakers should work with, and include, parents in finding effective ways to increase the positive financial behaviors of college students, particularly those behaviors related to credit card use. We need to help students and parents learn financial skills and establish healthy financial attitudes at earlier ages to prevent poor financial habits from taking root."

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Stephanie Pappas
Live Science Contributor

Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.