Study: Staying Together for the Kids May Not Be the Best Strategy

Most people believe that children of divorce are much more like likely to obtain a divorce as adults than children whose parents stay together. However, a recent study by researchers at New Jersey’s Montclair State University is challenging this commonly held belief.

In fact, researchers actually found the opposite to be true: Children whose parents fight constantly but who do not divorce are actually far more likely to divorce as adults.

Why?

Simply put, the near constant exposure to marital conflict.

“If [children are] constantly exposed to conflict, and the parents stay together, that means there’s many more years they’re exposed to conflict by their parents. Whereas if their parents get divorced, at least there’s a chance the parents will have less conflict after the divorce,” said Constance Gager, research coordinator.

According to the researchers, even though divorce is undoubtedly traumatic for children, its impact is relatively short. Furthermore, children are resilient by nature and therefore more likely to recover from short-term trauma.

The Montclair State University researchers reached their conclusion by re-examining data gathered from an extensive 1987 to 2002 family survey.

This survey was structured in the following manner:

  • In 1987, couples from around the nation were interviewed. The interview questions were largely focused on the area of marital conflict, specifically its causes
  • From 1992-1993, the same couples were re-interviewed. Any children of the marriages (older than 10) were also interviewed. Once again, the couples were asked about marital conflict and, if divorced, the reasons.
  • From 2001-2002, the aforementioned children (now adults) were re-interviewed to determine their current relationship status and level of happiness.

The data indicated that children whose parents divorced performed much better in terms of personal relationships in comparison with those whose parents stayed together but fought often.

According to Gager, “the basic implication [of the study] is, ‘Don’t stay together for the sake of the children if you’re in a high conflict marriage.”

This post is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Contact a legal professional to learn more about divorce or child custody.

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