Why Young Kids Suffer Most When Parents Get Divorced

Relationship troubles can have a big impact on family wellness. If you have children, you have another person’s wellbeing to consider when considering if you’re going to stick it out or separate and different situations have different optimal outcomes. While the best thing for your family might be for you and your partner to get a divorce, another couple might be better off staying together. However, according to a new study, your choice to separate might depend on how old your kids are.


According to the study, which was published online June 28th, and will appear in the September 2013 issue of the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, children whose parents divorce when they are very young have a more difficult time establishing close relationships with their parents later in life. The researchers discovered that if children were under the age of five when their parents divorced, they had a greater level of insecurity in their parental relationships than children whose parents divorced when they were older.


Chris Fraley, associate professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and co-author of the study, commented, ‘A person who has a secure relationship with a parent is more likely than someone who is insecure to feel that they can trust the parent. Such a person is more comfortable depending on the parent and is confident that the parent will be psychologically available when needed.’ Alongside graduate student Marie Heffernan, Fraley completed two studies analysing this effect of divorce on the parent-child relationship.


For the research, Fraley and Heffernan took a survey of 7,735 people, asking them about their personalities and close relationships. More than one-third of those surveyed came from homes of divorce, and Fraley explained that this is an important factor in determining how people form close relationships after witnessing the end of their parents’ marriage. He noted, ‘People’s relationships with their parents and romantic partners play important roles in their lives. This research brings us one step closer to understanding why it is that some people have relatively secure relationships with close others whereas others have more difficulty opening up to and depending on important people in their lives.’

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