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When parents divorce: New study analyzes impact of divorce on kids

Divorce is difficult for all involved, including the children. A new study finds some children may be at an increased risk of stress during the split. These tips can help.

A new study out of Georgetown University in collaboration with the University of Chicago reviews how children handle the divorce of their parents. According to the study, most children do well after a divorce. This is particularly true of children from low and middle income families. However, researchers found that children from high-income families were more likely to experience a negative impact from the split.

More on the study

The study reviewed data collected from over 4,000 children. Every other year starting in 1979, researchers from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) would contact the mothers of these children and complete a survey. The survey would cover a variety of subject matters, including socio-economic issues, questions about the family structure and both the physical and emotional health of the children.

Researchers from Georgetown and the University of Chicago then analyzed this data. According to a report by the Huffington Post, the researchers were able to determine that children in high-income families were more likely to be impacted by divorce but were unable to pinpoint why. Researchers explain the impact primarily as negative behavioral issues. They also noted that children from families that divorced but eventually remarried generally experienced improvement.

Tips to help kids during a divorce

It is important for those going through a divorce to keep in mind that children are resilient. Although children can generally handle adversity, a proactive approach during a divorce can help increase their chances of handling the divorce well. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the following tips can help reduce the level of stress the children experience during the divorce:

  • Open discussion. Avoid keeping the divorce a secret or sugar coating the split. Be honest and up front. Be clear that the divorce is not the child’s fault and admit that the process is upsetting for everyone. However, do not use a child as someone to vent to about an ex-spouse. Refrain from discussing the flaws of the child’s other parent.
  • Co-parenting. If possible, have a respectful co-parenting relationship with the child’s other parent. Remind the child that both parents are still there for the child, even though they are no longer married to each other.
  • Vigilance. Keep an eye on the child. If he or she begins to struggle in school, is suddenly aggressive or shies away from participating when the child was once an active member of various organizations, take note. Discuss the changes with the other parent. Consider reaching out to a counselor or the child’s pediatrician for more guidance on how to address these changes.

Parents going through a divorce are also wise to seek the counsel of an experienced divorce attorney. This legal professional can help to protect your interests and rights while you focus on your children.

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