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Is Divorce Bad for Children?

With nearly half of all marriages ending in divorce, the number of children of divorce growing up in America is exorbitant. In order to gain some perspective on the effect of divorce on children, a number of studies have been published in the last few years that attempt to shed light on how the 1.5 million children whose parents divorce each year are faring.

An overview of the effects of divorce on children reveals that the news might not be as bad as previously thought. A 2002 study by psychologist E. Mavis Hetherington called For Better or for Worse; Divorce Reconsidered was the first long-term study to measure the effects of divorce on children. More recent studies such as Attachment and Parental Divorce (Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin) point to certain key factors that may determine the outcome:

  • Level of marital conflict — Studies show that a high level of conflict between parents causes anxiety and depression in children. Often there is increased conflict near the time of divorce and in the aftermath, but studies suggest that when areas of conflict resolve, children quickly adapt to the more peaceful circumstances — even if the parents are then divorced or living separately.
  • Compromised parenting —Parents who are under stress can be impatient with their children and are not as inclined to provide the loving, stable home environment that most benefits children. The divorce period can be immensely stressful and cause children to suffer, but the effects diminish when the parents return to normal functioning post divorce — usually within two years.
  • Limiting post-divorce conflict — While studies indicate that children who never see their parents fight suffer more trauma from divorce, they also show that parents who are able to co-parent peacefully after divorce have happier, better-adjusted children.
  • Stable home situation — There is no study that indicates it is better to stay in a bad marriage at all costs. Every indicator points to the fact that children thrive in a stable and loving home environment, regardless of how many parents live there. Children with married parents who are violent or negligent suffer more dysfunction than children of peaceful divorce.
  • Child’s natural resilience — The elusive factor that may contribute to the mental health of a child more than any other is the one they are born with. Some children are simply more flexible, more adaptable and more resilient to adverse conditions than others.

If you are considering divorce, seek the advice of an experienced Boca Raton divorce attorney.

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