April 21, 2018

Repairing Relationship Ruptures


What is a “relationship rupture”?  Having miscommunication, conflict, and even misunderstandings…. anything that causes a disruption or disconnect in a relationship is a “rupture”.

So, why is this important?  Well, studies show it’s not as important as the repair that can occur afterwards.

In a 2010 study, where they looked at differences in high-risk vs. low-risk families for child maltreatment, they found no differences in the rates of relationship ruptures…….NO DIFFERENCE!   Research shows that ruptures are common in healthy families too, with well-functioning families only showing positive interactions less than 50% of the time.  Tronick stated that brief periods of parent-child rupture which are then repaired are necessary for healthy relationship skill development.  And in the above mentioned study, the differences they did find were in the repair.  In the high-risk families, the parent did not initiate repair, as opposed to the low-risk parent who did.

This is extremely exciting news for me.  It says that I don’t have to be perfect!  I don’t have to get it right all the time.  I, like most of you, want to parent well.  However, I often don’t.  I spend time on my electronics when I should be paying attention to my kids.  I get grumpy, especially after 8:00pm.  And I just, often, blow it.  But when I do, these studies remind me that I can come back and repair the rupture.  I can model making a mistake, apologizing and taking responsibility for my actions.  So if you find yourself in a “rupture”, don’t end it there.  Go back and make it right!  You can do it!  And it will make a HUGE difference for your child.



Gianino A, Tronick E. The mutual regulation model: The infant’s self and interactive regulation coping and defense. In: Field T, McCabe P, Schneiderman N, editors. Stress and coping. Hillsdale, N J: Erlbaum; 1988. pp. 47–68.

Harrist AW, Waugh RM. Dyadic synchrony: Its structure and function in children’s development. Developmental Review. 2002;22:555–592.

 Tronick EZ, Review Emotions and emotional communication in infants.  Am Psychol. 1989 Feb; 44(2):112-9.







  1. This is something a wise amazing woman shared with me in my early parenting days – and I hold fast to these truths! It really is refreshing to be reminded of! We can repair and actually do good from something not so good 🙂

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