The struggles of a child of divorce can leave parents wondering about the challenges their child may face. They worry about how the adjustment of not having both parents under the same roof will affect them, as well as how much they may have been exposed to during moments of marital discord.
Many studies have focused on the negative effects of experiencing a parental divorce. Some studies suggest that a child’s future relationships can be negatively impacted by parental divorce. Additionally, children of divorce can sometimes experience separation anxiety, when they are away from a parent.
They have the potential of being subjected to parental alienation. Their communication patterns can be altered, due to a parent’s need to keep their child engaged during this difficult time. Their academic achievement may be initially affected by the recentness of the experience, and they are at a higher risk of dropping out of school and becoming a juvenile delinquent.
However, a study from the University of Central Florida explored the possibility that a parental divorce can lead to a positive effect on children.
The study surveyed 233 students of the University of Central Florida, include 67 men and 166 women. They were between 18 to 29 years old. Of those surveyed, 45.5 percent of the total sample stated that they have experienced at least one parental divorce.
Of the 106 people that stated that they had experienced a parental divorce, 28 of them were between the ages of 3 and 5 years old at the time of the divorce, and 21 of them were between the ages of 6 and 8 years old.
The results of the study found that more respondents from the divorced sample lasted longer in relationships than those from the sample that had never experienced a parental divorce. The researchers suggested that parental divorce has no impact on a young adult’s attitude toward relationships, due to respondents forming their own opinions on romantic relationships, forming their own romantic relationships, and maintaining their own romantic relationships independent of their parents’ marital status.
The results also found that there was a significant gender difference in the duration of a relationship for children of divorce. Male adult children of divorce were shown to have relationships that lasted, on average, four to seven months, whereas female adult children of divorce were shown to have relationships that lasted, on average eight to 11 months. Of those that were shown to have relationships lasting 12 months or more, adult women of divorce outnumbered adult men of divorce 35 to six.
Only 19 percent of the parental divorce respondents said that they have experienced multiple parental divorces.
In the interview section of this study, half of the participants who have experienced a parental divorce stated that it had had a positive impact on their ability to maintain a relationship in some way. The common responses stated that the respondent would strive to perform better in the relationship than their parents in their own marriage, learning from their mistakes rather than repeating them.
The responses also suggested that their parental divorce influenced their decision to get to know someone and learn how to communicate with them in healthy way, before making a commitment like marriage.
There were a number of respondents that stated that because of the young age they were during their parental divorce, they had no frame of reference of how a relationship was supposed to be. Furthermore, due to the family structure that the respondents of the study grew up with, some of the female respondents developed a bias against men. This was attributed to the lack of presence of their fathers.
Learning from it
Despite the negative effects that can linger over time, the study demonstrates the learning experience of witnessing a parental divorce. The interview portion of the study depicted the respondents’ desire to learn from their parents’ marriage and avoid making the same mistakes as them.
This is not necessarily a negative point on the parents’ part. They were in an unhappy and dysfunctional relationship, making divorce the healthiest decision for themselves and their children. They are actively showing their children the importance of making the best decision possible in the most difficult of circumstances.
For the children, especially of this study, they are seeing that choice and the difficulty of it and doing better for themselves in the future. They are choosing to take their time in relationships and communicate their thoughts and feelings, so that when they do decide to marry, they are doing so knowing the relationship will be health, functional, and happy.