The negative impact of divorce on children is the same whether parents remain amicable or not, according to a new study in the US.
Researchers asked 270 parents who were divorced or separated between 1998 and 2004 about how their break up had affected the youngest child in their family.
The study found that children of divorced parents were more likely than others to have behavioural problems, mental health difficulties, and were at a greater risk of performing poorly at school.
But the children’s problems were not improved regardless of whether the parents got on well with each other or continued to argue after the divorce, according to the research.
The paper’s abstract said: “Despite the expectation that children fare better if their divorced parents develop a cooperative coparenting relationship, the authors found that parents’ reports of their children’s internalizing and externalizing behaviors and their social skills did not significantly differ by type of post-divorce coparental relationships.”
It said the results suggest that the “direct influence of post-divorce coparenting” on children may not be as “robust” as predicted.
The study, led by Dr Jonathon Beckmeyer of Indiana University, was published in the academic journal Family Relations.
Harry Benson, Research Director at the Marriage Foundation, said the notion of a ‘good divorce’ is a myth.
He commented: “This study fully exposes the mismatch between parents’ and children’s perceptions.
“Getting on well might make the parents feel better about their split. But it does little for the children. To them it makes no sense if the parents get on well yet won’t live together”, he added.
A study in 2012 by Pennsylvania State University researchers revealed similar results.
A team analysed almost 1,000 families and found that children with divorced parents suffer, even if the split was ‘amicable’.
Researcher Paul Amato, a professor of family sociology, said that parents are in the dark over how their divorce will affect their children.
He said, “people’s willingness to accept the good divorce hypothesis is reason for concern if some parents are lulled into believing that their children are adequately protected from all the potential risks of union disruption”.
Earlier this year, an analysis of the 2011 UK census revealed that 386,000 children split their time between parents in different homes.