I just finished up a modification trial today regarding child custody. As an attorney, I strive not only to represent my client but when the case involves the children, my duty also includes thinking about how the outcome could affect them as well. A recent article on Newswise and included in the Journal on Marriage and Family reported that for children of divorce, what happens after their parents split up may be just as important to their long-term well-being as the divorce itself.
A new study found that children who lived in unstable family situations after their parents divorced fared much worse as adults on a variety of measures compared to children who had stable post-divorce family situations. “For many children with divorced parents, particularly young ones, the divorce does not mark the end of family structure changes – it marks the beginning,” said Yongmin Sun, co-author of the study and associate professor of sociology at Ohio State University’s Mansfield campus. “A stable family situation after divorce does not erase the negative effects of a divorce, but children in this situation fare much better than do those who experience chronic instability”
The study compared children who grew up in three different situations including children who grew up in married households, children whose parents divorced before the study began but lived in a stable home, and children whose family situation changed once or twice during teen years.
Results showed that young adults who grew up in stable post-divorce families had similar chances of attending college and living in poverty compared to those from always married families. But they fared less well on measures of the highest degree obtained, occupational prestige and income. However, those who lived in unstable family situations after their parents divorced did worse on all measures. In fact, they fared more than twice as poorly on most measures compared to their peers who had stable family situations.
This study found that for those in stable post-divorce families, the difference in adult well-being was mostly due to a shortage of economic and social resources. Compared to always-married parents, divorced parents had a lower level of income, didn’t talk to their children as much about school-related matters, had fewer interactions with other parents, and moved their children to new schools more often.
These findings provide a clear message to parents: minimize disruption during a divorce and after.