Improving people’s physical and mental health is a major public health concern. Most people who are concerned about their physical health are likely to think of commonly touted messages about a balanced diet, regular exercise, or adequate sleep rather than the quality of their close personal relationships. When it comes to mental health, social stigma, denial, or the painful distress of actually experiencing a mental health problem may keep people from seeking treatment or considering the possibility that troubled family or romantic interactions may trigger, aggravate, or prolong the problem. This chapter is devoted to exploring the ways in which physical and mental
health are intertwined with conﬂicted family interactions. In many cases, scholars have been able to show that it is not simply conﬂict per se that is damaging to physical and mental health, but rather certain forms of conﬂict. Specifying these destructive forms and describing how they are tied to health problems helps elevate the study of conﬂict to a public health issue. In the past 20 years scientists have made astonishing discoveries of possible pathophysiological mechanisms linking marital and family conﬂict with poor physical health outcomes. The ﬁrst half of this chapter describes these links in both adults and children. The second half of the chapter attempts to promote greater understanding and appreciation for the constellation of mental health problems that accompany certain destructive forms of family conﬂict.