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How Bad is Divorce for Kids?

Child looking contemplative after a divorce

Many parents in unhappy marriages hesitate to consider divorce because they’re afraid the divorce will damage their children. While divorce certainly impacts most children emotionally, studies show that only a small percentage of the 1.5 million U.S. children whose parents divorce each year suffer serious, long-term effects. Moreover, research indicates that parental conflict plays a more significant role in its impact on children than the divorce itself. Here’s what you need to know.

Common Effects of Divorce on Children

There’s no escaping the fact that a divorce is an emotional event for all family members. As with adults, the first year or two is the most difficult for children. According to Scientific American, a University of Virginia study from 2002 found that many kids experience anxiety, anger, shock, and disbelief after their parents’ divorce. Still, these emotions usually fade or disappear by the end of the second year. It’s also normal for kids to feel sadness, grief, worry, frustration, or guilt.

These negative emotions can manifest in various ways. Some younger children may regress and engage in behaviors such as bedwetting or thumb-sucking. Older children may act aggressively, withdraw, show signs of depression, or experience a drop in their grades. Adolescents of divorced parents are more likely to drop out of high school, engage in risky sexual behavior, or abuse drugs or alcohol.

In the long term, however, most children of divorce are resilient and can bounce back from the experience. Studies have indicated that several years after the divorce, children of divorced parents fare nearly as well as children whose parents remained married. When measuring academic achievement, emotional and behavioral problems, delinquency, and relationships, researchers found that only small differences between the two groups exist.

How Parental Behavior Affects Children in Divorce

There’s ample reason to believe that parental conflict negatively impacts children more than divorce. Repeated studies have shown that children whose parents engage in high-conflict divorce are more likely to have long-term or more serious behavioral problems than children whose parents divorce with low-conflict.

On the flip side, children whose parents had a high-conflict marriage showed less anxiety and depression after their parents’ divorce. In addition, children whose parents stay in high-conflict marriages are more likely to experience behavioral and mental health issues.

If you are a parent considering divorce, try to keep the split as low-conflict as possible to minimize the impact on your children. Treat each other with respect and avoid putting your kids in the middle of your disagreements.

New Hampshire Divorce Attorneys

If you decide that divorce is the best option for your family, you need skilled legal guidance. At Tenn And Tenn, P.A., our experienced New Hampshire family law attorneys can help guide you through the process and protect your rights. Give us a call at (888) 332-5855 or contact us online today.

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