US study: divorce never good for children

Fri, 3 Feb 2012

Children always suffer from divorce, and the idea of a ‘good divorce’ is just wishful thinking, according to new research from the US.

An analysis of almost 1,000 families found that children with divorced parents suffer, even if the split was ‘amicable’.

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University called on marriage counsellors to do more to keep couples together.

Breakdown

Norman Wells, from the Family Education Trust, said: “The authors of this study are to be applauded for having the courage to honestly examine the evidence on such a sensitive issue.

“Many parents make sterling efforts to mitigate the damaging consequences of family breakdown for their children, but they can never be eliminated altogether.

“We have not taken seriously enough the extent to which children are affected when their parents separate.”

Myth

Researchers used three categories of divorced families, ‘co-operative’, where parents shared childcare and got on well with each other, ‘parallel’, where childcare was shared but there was rarely any communication, and ‘single parent’, because the absent parent had no or little contact with their child.

The journal Family Relations reported that all three groups reported similar school marks, self-esteem and satisfaction with life, debunking the idea that it was possible to have a ‘good divorce’.

It was suggested that people believed in such an idea because they simply wanted it to be true.

Importance

Mr Wells added: “Although divorce rates in the UK have declined in recent years, family breakdown is affecting growing numbers of families as a result of the rise in cohabitation and births outside marriage.

“Co-habiting relationships are much less stable than marriages and even more so when children are involved.

“The importance for children of the life-long marriage of their parents cannot be overestimated.

“Far too often separation and divorce are presented as quick-fix solutions without thinking through the longer-term implications.”

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