Studies: Future Relationships Affected by Parental Divorce


  • Research suggests that parental divorce can put future relationships at risk.
  • Communication and money-related issues can arise, perpetuating the cycle.
  • Identifying parental behavior in their own divorces can better prepare you not to make the same mistakes.
parallel parenting

"In shaping one’s perspective, parents expose their children to the world through their eyes, including during the difficult moments that life has to offer."

Over time, children of divorce eventually develop a sense of normalcy. In balancing custody schedules and two separate households, they find their groove and become used to their living situation. As they get older and find themselves in relationships of their own, they can sometimes face similar crossroads as their parents once did.

Repeating mistakes?

According to corresponding studies from researchers from the University of Illinois and Florida State University that were published in The Huffington Post, the risk factors for repeating parental mistakes within relationships and experiencing divorce for yourself are higher, in comparison to those that have not experienced parental divorce.

The real test comes when a child of divorce marries for themselves. This creates a need for conflict resolution mechanisms to form, which are one of the reasons why children of divorce are at a higher risk for divorce themselves, according to research.

This is primarily due to the way that children learn about relationships and personal interactions from their parents. As children develop over the years, they find themselves imitating many of the ways that their parents process the complex emotions that one develops during conflict.

Modern methods of communication

Part of that stems from the way individuals communicate with one another. Researchers have found that children who come from households in which conflict between parents is not managed well are more likely to have similar problems in their own future relationships.

Another aspect is derived from the age of the individuals in question. According to the Graduate Journal of Counseling Psychology at Marquette University, individuals who experience a parental divorce look to marry at an early age, in order to fulfill their need for affection. Additional research showed that younger individuals who experience a parental divorce, especially more than one time, have a higher rate of early sexual activity and adolescent parenthood.

Trust issues

Studies from McKendree University also examined the effects of parental divorce on adult relationships and found that when a child of divorce exhibits the models of behavior that they had picked up from their parents and their own relationship ends, they internalize their feelings and blame these events on an inability to trust others or distrust toward relationships as a whole. The study found that female participants were more likely to exhibit fear of being rejected or hurt, while male participants were found to have less generalized trust in relationships.

The trust within a relationship is a major factor for children of divorce in their own relationships. The research showed that adult children of divorce tended to have a less positive attitude toward marriage and a lower commitment to maintaining romantic ties, which causes a lack of trust to build. Even when they find themselves in relationships, during moments of conflict, they are more likely to end the relationship than work out the marital problems. Their pessimistic attitude regarding their perceived inability to improve their own relationship is crippling and can alienate whomever they find themselves in a relationship with.

Conflicts with money

One of the more interesting aspects of this cycle is how it affects biological and stepchildren alike. In many instances, an adult child of divorce ending their own marriage turns their own children into children of divorce, according to Psychology Today. Afterward, the adult child of divorce sometimes remarries someone who already has children, creating an even more complicated dynamic that puts finances and estates into a tough situation.

For individuals who have experienced a parental divorce, they already may understand what a conflict regarding money and finances entails. Since money is the biggest thing that married couples argue about, it is no surprise that parental divorce can color one’s view regarding the importance of money in a relationship. It can cause individuals to lose track of their own finances within a relationship and frivolously spend on nonessentials. It also can cause individuals to become penny pinchers and snap every time their spouse makes any purchase that their spouse deems as “excessive.”

Emotional hurtles

An individual in a relationship who has experienced a parental divorce also can have emotional hurtles to clear. According to the Graduate Journal of Counseling Psychology at Marquette University, they are more likely to experience issues with emotional intimacy in various ways. Research has suggested that the length of time since their parental divorce is a strong predictor of how adult children of divorce act within intimate relationships.

This is primarily due to the idea that these individuals believe, where they find themselves wanting multiple partners or the one “perfect” partner to be satisfied in a relationship.

In shaping one’s perspective, parents expose their children to the world through their eyes, including during the difficult moments that life has to offer. Divorce can offer the opportunity to start a new life and move forward. However, children of divorce have a much less developed sense of stability and rely on the familial dynamic, in order to maintain a sense of normalcy. When they no longer have that, they can exhibit traits of their parents and begin to mirror their behavior during a formative time in their own lives.

It’d be easy to say that they should not exhibit that type of behavior, but what individuals learn from their parents in the way we perceive events and the way we behave is difficult to identify and even harder to correct. However, it does not mean that individuals who have experienced parental divorce are doomed to repeat their parents’ mistakes. Knowing the social and psychological research, as well as the behavior patterns of the parents whose divorce began this cycle, will help you break it, in order to create healthy and unaffected relationships on your own.

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