Divorce is Not Always Bad for the Children

Researchers from Montclair State University in New Jersey recently reported that, in marriages with a great deal of conflict, the notion of “staying together for the kids” might do more harm than good. The study, which was presented last year at the annual meetings of the Population Association of America, is being prepared for publication in a scientific journal.

To form their conclusions, the researchers analyzed the results of a national survey of nearly 7,000 married couples and their children living in the United States. The parents were initially surveyed in 1987 and asked questions to gauge their level of marital conflict at home, including how often they disagreed over money, household tasks, the in-laws, and multiple other hot-button issues. Then, between 1992 and 1993, both parents and children were surveyed, with researchers assessing how the parental conflict changed over the years, including whether the couple divorced. The children were surveyed a final time, as adults in 2001 and 2002, and were asked about their level of happiness and conflict in their own current relationships.

The results of the study indicate that children of parents who fight a lot yet stay married experience more conflict in their own marital relationships than children of parents who fight and get divorced. Researchers indicate that the results show that children do suffer short-term issues during crisis periods when their parents divorce, but they usually recover in the long run. Constant exposure to parental strife is most likely what causes children’s future relationships to suffer and sometimes end. In contract, parental happiness did not appear to affect the children’s adult relationships; children of happily married parents did not necessarily grow up to have happy marriages themselves.

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