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Divorce only has a small effect on children, review claims

Only a “relatively small percentage” of children experience significant problems after their parents divorce, according to a new review by Scientific American.

The journal examines various studies into the effect of divorce on children and concludes that while shock, anger and anxiety are common reactions in the immediate aftermath of a split, most children recover within two years.

“Only a minority of kids suffer longer”, the article claims.

According to the study, after a certain point, only small differences can be detected between children from divorced and married homes in behaviour, social relationships and academic performance.

Some adults from divorced families do experience psychological issues such as depression and relationship issues but the rate at which these occur is only slightly higher than in people from married families.

The review’s authors conclude “…most children of divorce become well-adjusted adults.”

According to some studies, children who have not been exposed to arguments and tension between their parents can be less prepared for divorce and than those from more argumentative families.

The review notes:

“In a 1985 study Hetherington and her associates reported that some children who are exposed to high levels of marital discord prior to divorce adjust better than children who experience low levels. Apparently when marital conflict is muted, children are often unprepared when told about the upcoming divorce. They are surprised, perhaps even terrified, by the news. In addition, children from high-discord families may experience the divorce as a welcome relief from their parents’ fighting.”

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Lukey says:

    Well, what I will say is that amongst my close relatives I have seen only one divorce and in terms of damaging the children (to the point where teachers became concerned at the time in the change in behaviour) we are 1/1.

  2. Yvie says:

    How many years has the research been followed up on these children? Are they affected in adult life or not?

    Children pay a heavy price when parents divorce, be it loss of one parent altogether, alienation from a parent over a period of time, having to cope with new partners and their children whether they like it or not, having to cope with shared care and two homes, which can work well but not always,having to cope with warring parents who are more concerned with themselves than the welfare of the children. The list goes on. But hey – they recover after two years apparently, so that’s alright then.

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