Trust and confidence are two things that childhood has a profound effect on. As I've been reading some books about psychology, it seems that if trust and confidence are not established early, then both are extremely hard to come by later in life.
From birth, a child must rely on his mother and father to protect and provide for him (or her). That child is well aware of his dependence on the parents. The child also trusts that the parents will do what is in the his best interest.
However, if these are broken early and/or often, the child becomes skeptical of his parents' ability to protect and provide for him. Since the parent is the "first impression" the child receives of someone who promises something (protection and provision), if he has bad experiences, the child will grow up to question everyone that "promises" something to that child.
In some cases the child begins to question the idea that reality is even real, or that anything is objective (these are all things that society is acting out, yet saying something opposite- but that's a different post).
My point in all this is that if the family continues to break and be as dysfunctional as it has been, our children will pay the price with their confidence in reality.
When someone questions reality itself, many doors are opened. First, as a Christian, my concern is that if someone can't trust reality, then why should they trust the God who supposedly created it? Second, if reality is not to be trusted, then any implications about reality are not to be trusted either. These implications include morality. When the child (now teen or adult) realizes this connection, they are "freed" to do whatever they wish, with no lasting consequences.
Our children are watching our every move. When we break their trust and confidence, they get closer to moral relativism. It is truly amazing the kind of eternal impact parents have on their children. The repeat-offender parents are the one's that really need to pay attention and turn around.
If we allow society to continue to destroy the family and perpetuate our children's mistrust in parents, we may lose our kids forever.
I'm not trying to be Chicken Litter, here ("the sky is falling..."), but am trying to awaken parents to the damage they may be doing to their children without even realizing it. We all need to take a look at everything we do and ask ourselves "how would I feel if my mom or dad were doing that?"
We have all heard that we are "examples" that children follow. I'm not going to argue with that. I would even say that children are not stupid enough to not notice a bad example, too. But I want to take this one step further. Even though a child may recognize that you are a bad example and decide not to follow you, they still have not realized that their trust in someone who they believed to be trustworthy (you), has now placed one more strike against anyone else who would try to gain that child's trust. If you continue, the strikes continue to build a case for mistrust of everything.
For more on this subject check out these links:
Focus on the Family
Healing the Masculine Soul by Gordon Dalbey
Faith of the Fatherless by Paul Vitz
Bringing Up Boys by James Dobson