A recent article written by two psychology professors, Hal Arkowitz and Scott Lilienfeld, examined several studies on how divorce affects children. The positive news is only a small percentage of children are seriously, negatively affected by divorce. Research shows that initially all children feel a negative effect, but the majority recover very well.
A 2002 study done by the University of Virginia also examined the recovery rates of kids following divorce. Initially, almost all suffered from anger, anxiety, shock and/or disbelief. Most of these negative effects significantly reduced or disappeared by the end of the second year following the divorce. There was a small percentage of children who continued to suffer.
Researchers at Penn State University compared children from sustained marriages against those from divorced parents, looking at different periods through their teenage years. They specifically compared academic achievement, emotional and behavior problems, delinquencies, self-concept and social relationships. They found only small differences between the two groups.
Marriages with a high level of discord prior to announcing the divorce tend to have children who adjust better and more quickly than those children whose parents hid the problems until the divorce was announced. Researchers believe that the discord helps to prepare the children for the divorce, and the actual divorce is a relief as it helps to end many of the conflicts. Conversely, children whose parents had little conflict prior to the divorce have less time to emotionally prepare for the divorce causing them to be surprised and scared by the news.
Effects of Divorce as Children Mature
An article written by psychologists, Joan B. Kelly and Robert E. Emery, concluded that children of divorce tend to have more problematic relationships as adults than those from stable homes. Specifically, they had more difficulty forming and keeping intimate relationships as young adults, they felt greater dissatisfaction with their own marriages, and they had poor relationships with the noncustodial father. All other differences between children from divorce and children from sustained marriages were small.
This article put forth a number of suggestions to help children bounce back from a divorce:
- Make the divorce as congenial as possible. Limit children’s exposure to conflict.
- Children should live with the parent who is better handling the divorce.
- Parents struggling with depression, anxiety or any other issue from the divorce should seek professional help or limit exposure to the children.
- Be open and frank about the divorce and its implications.
- Strive to maintain general good parenting. This includes providing emotional support, monitoring activities, providing consistent discipline and seeking support for your child.
The last issue the article touched upon was how the personality of the child affects their recovery from the divorce. If they are easy going, problem solvers or those who seek outside social support, they will fare well. A child whose coping skills include avoidance or distraction may need extra help to bounce back from the divorce. The article concluded that overall, children are extremely resilient. With proper support most children will grow into adults with few if any scars from divorce.
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Bel Air divorce lawyers of Huesman, Jones & Miles provide compassionate and skillful legal representation to successfully navigate divorce matters in Maryland. For a free confidential consultation, call our Hunt Valley family law firm at 443-589-0150 or contact us online. We serve clients throughout the state of Maryland in Baltimore County, Harford County, Carroll County and Howard County, Towson, Essex, Columbia and Bel Air.