We all know that having your parents divorce is far from ideal for any child. Study after study has told us that divorced children have a hard time adjusting, that they don't do as well academically, that they experience more frequent emotional problems, that they're more likely to divorce themselves, or worse, turn to substance abuse.
But what all those studies don't tell you is that we're looking at the data in all the wrong ways. In their article, "Everything We Think We Know About Being A Child Of Divorce Is Wrong," authors Danielle and Astro Teller discuss how there are so many influential factors on the developmental lives of children and in correlation, so many influencing factors for divorce, that you can't always definitively link all those factors together. They illustrate it like this:
"First, people who get divorced are different, on average, from people who stay married. That causes researchers to compare apples to oranges, which can lead to false conclusions. For instance, parents with low incomes are more likely to divorce than wealthy parents (paywall). Children from poor families also, on average, do worse in school. A researcher could conclude that children whose parents divorce do worse in school and would be statistically correct. The researcher would be just as correct to conclude that children who never vacation in Europe or ski in Aspen are more likely to drop out of school."
In other words, just because a kid isn't doing as well as his peers doesn't mean you can blame it all on his parents divorce. There may be a large variety of influencing factors, and these factors may have influenced the divorce itself - things like alcoholism, substance abuse, low education levels and poverty are known to be associated with higher divorce rate, and they are definite influences on the health and well-being of any child. A parent's divorce is only one factor that needs to be considered in the overall picture.
In addition, the amount of conflict in the divorce and parental involvementhave been proven to have a very strong effect on a child's development and emotional state, either negative or positive.
Divorce is never ideal. The impact on your children is something you have to consider and you're going to have to live with. But it doesn't have to be the end of the world. Keep your kids first and foremost in your mind and actions, and make sure the both of you stay involved in their lives in as positive a way as possible, and you'll go a long way toward mitigating those negative after-effects.
Are you a child of divorce? Do you think your parent's divorce had a life-long effect on you? If so, why?
[Ellie DeLano is the author of David And Me Under The Sea: Essays From A Decade With Autism, and also blogs at SingleMomtism.com. You can follow Ellie on Facebook and Twitter]