The Effects of Divorce on Children
Divorce impacts children. When parents decide to dissolve their marriage and live in separate homes, the family experiences a disruption and change that affects the children in the short and long term.
Yet, staying in an unhealthy or high-conflict marriage can also negatively impact children. While research shows that children of divorce may have more difficulties than children from intact marriages, the differences are minor and consider divorced families as a group with averaged outcomes.
The comparison between children from healthy, intact families and divorced families may not reflect your family’s experience. Likely, if you’re considering a divorce, the impact of staying married may not produce the same outcomes for your children as those in families with a healthy and stable marriage.
In other words, the issues in your marriage may already be impacting your children. Avoiding divorce may not produce better outcomes. In some cases, while challenging, a divorce may benefit your children.
Is Divorce Harmful to Children?
Most parents want to know whether a divorce will harm their children. Unfortunately, each situation differs. The impact for each child and family depends on the specifics of the circumstances.
The divorce rate in the U.S. varies between 40% and 50%. In 2008, only 64% of children lived with their married parents, according to Pew Research Center. For today’s children, divorce is not unusual. Society’s views of divorced families have also shifted, taking away much of the social judgment or discomfort divorced children faced in previous generations.
Whether your divorce will harm your children depends on specific factors that contribute to more difficulties for children.
What Specific Factors Lead to More Difficulties for Children of Divorce?
Frequently cited research from Paul R. Amato in 1999, “Children of divorced parents as young adults,” highlights that approximately 40% of young adults from divorced families had better outcomes than their peers from intact families.
The researcher, in previous reports, discovered specific factors that cause more difficulties for children from divorced families.
When a divorce results in the separation of a parent and child, the child also suffers the loss of knowledge, skills, and resources from that parent, including financial resources. The quality of the relationship between the non-residential parent and the child dramatically impacts the quality of life for the child. When the children receive good parenting from both parents, outcomes improve.
Often, single-parent homes have fewer financial resources than homes with two parents. Families with higher incomes often fare better than children from low-income homes, regardless of marital status. Factors impacting children include frequently changing residences, schools, childcare, and friends. The disruptions caused by financial insecurity impact children. It just happens that children raised in single-parent homes, on average, have more financial difficulty.
Divorce creates stress for children. When a divorce occurs, children often move and face instability. Changes in schools, friends, and family relationships lead to stress. Higher degrees of stress during a divorce produce worse outcomes for the children. Children from families with multiple divorces often suffer more, leading to even worse effects.
A parent’s mental health greatly impacts their children’s well-being. When a parent adjusts better after a divorce, the children usually experience a better adjustment. In fact, some studies show that when parents adjust quickly after a divorce, the difference in the outcome data between children from divorced families and intact families disappears.
The skills parents bring to childrearing directly affect the children. Often in the aftermath of a divorce, parents have diminished parenting practices. In those cases, the children experience even more instability and unpredictability. Studies continue to show that parenting skills and the relationship between parents and children impact a child’s well-being.
Conflict Between Parents
Children who witness high conflict between their parents often have more difficulty. This impact holds for conflicts seen before, during, and after divorce. In fact, children in low-conflict single-family homes often fare better than children in high-conflict intact homes. In other words, it is often damaging for children to witness frequent or extreme conflict between their parents, regardless of marital status.
How to Help Children Through a Divorce
Considering the research, it is not the divorce that negatively affects the children. Instead, the factors associated with the divorce usually determine the child’s well-being. While the disruption will create a loss in the short term, if parents mitigate the factors that negatively impact children, outcomes improve.
Steps Parents Can Take to Improve Outcomes for Children
- Avoid conflict in front of the children
- Do not speak negatively about the other parent in front of the children
- Provide financial security by following the child support and spousal maintenance orders
- Maintain quality and consistent parenting practices
- Maintain healthy parent-child relationships, including following child custody orders
- Parents should take proactive steps to manage their adjustment and mental health after the divorce
When parents actively support their children through a divorce, the child’s well-being improves.
Legal Support Through a Dissolution of Marriage
Find the legal support you need during a divorce with help from the law firm of Philip Goldberg PC. As experienced Colorado family law attorneys, we specialize in guiding families through divorce. We can work with you to address crucial issues like child custody, child support, spousal maintenance, and financial outcomes.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation.