Divorce may be better for kids than a dysfunctional marriage

This article looks at why children of divorce often say they are happy with their parents' decision.

One of the main reasons so many people remain in unhappy marriages is because of the fear of the harm a divorce will do to their children. Many parents take it for granted that divorce will cause emotional and psychological harm to their children. However, research into divorce's effects on children paints a far more nuanced picture of this difficult issue. In fact, a growing number of studies shows that while divorce is certainly an unhappy experience initially for children, in the long run it is better for them than growing up with parents who are trapped in a dysfunctional marriage.

What the children are saying

For parents who assume that their children will resent their parents' breakup, a recent poll provides some interesting results. As the Parent Herald reports, the poll surveyed teenagers and young adults aged 14 to 22 whose parents divorced when they were young about how they felt about that divorce. Perhaps surprisingly, 82 percent of respondents said they supported their parents' decision to divorce.

The survey showed that while many of the children were upset when their parents first divorced, they eventually came to see the decision as being in the best interests of the entire family. Most of the respondents said they would rather go through the brief pain of seeing their parents divorce rather than to live in a household where the parents were unhappily married.

Divorce isn't necessarily bad for children

That survey's findings generally fit with what other studies have found. As Scientific American points out, many studies are now showing that children have a great capacity for bouncing back from the initial trauma of a divorce. One 2002 study, for example, found that while children exhibited negative emotional behaviors during the first year following their parents' divorce, those behaviors largely returned to normal by the end of the two-year mark.

Furthermore, a 2001 study found that children of divorced parents are at no higher risk of developing emotional or behavioral problems than children of parents who stayed together are. That study found that both groups of children largely performed similarly in such areas as delinquency, academic achievement, social relationships, and self-concept.

Family law help

These studies are not meant to suggest that divorce is easy for families - obviously a divorce is a painful process for all involved - but it does highlight that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. For parents who are worried about the effect their divorce will have on their children, ensuring that the divorce proceeds smoothly and with as little drama as possible can help ease those concerns. A family law attorney can help any parent who is going through a divorce, including by helping with complicated legal matters, so as to provide peace of mind during this otherwise difficult time.