During the divorce experience, pain can exist in a variety of ways. The marital discord that exists between two people who have vowed to love one another “ ‘Til death do them part’ ” is something that nothing else in life has prepared you for.
If you have children, explaining the end of your marriage in a way they will be able to understand adds another layer of difficulty to the arduous process.
One study looks to examine whether children being in the middle of a divorce makes the divorce more painful than a divorce without children.
Researchers from the University of Amsterdam and the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute published a study in “Demography,” a journal published by The Population Association of America. They stated that the theoretical models of the divorce process suggest that marital breakups are more painful in the presence of children. However, little is actually known about how children affect the well-being of the adults during this challenging time.
The study assed the importance of a child’s age for moderator effects in the divorce process and tested how men and women difference in this respect.
The results of the study showed that declines in economic well-being, general well-being, and family well-being were sharper if dependent children were present before the divorce. The variable effects of children tended to be larger if the children of a younger age.
For the divorcing couples that did not have children, effects of divorce on well-being were considered trivial. There was no discernable difference between men and women without children, in terms of general measure of well-being.
However, the study found that the economic well-being of mothers tended to suffer more, especially if preschool-aged children were involved, whereas the family well-being of fathers suffered more. The economic well-being of fathers also suffered a larger overall decline in the presence of children.
Aside from a mother’s economic well-being, the gaps between childless individuals who have gone through a divorce narrowed over time. The variable effects of children emerged most clearly in the year after divorce, and began to decrease across the observations. They vanished six years after the separation.
Fathers are given a majority of the burden, in terms of non-economic suffering, and the researchers interpreted this to relate to the research that suggests that women more often initiate divorce than men. This creates a social and familial vulnerability that inflicts pain onto men from that perspective, whereas research points to women underestimating the economic consequences of divorce before they decide to pursue it.
Healing over time
The results of the study show that while the effects of divorce are great for parents, they adapt in the long term. They are able to create an environment and arrangement for themselves and their children that decreases the pain of the process. They are able to heal.
This includes the children in these families. Numerous studies have highlighted the impact that a parental divorce has on a child’s present, as well as their future. They have to deal with a lot of the emotional fallout of seeing the two most influential figures in their lives end their relationship. Not only does it set a precedent on future relationships going forward, but it creates a binuclear image of what their family is.
The study may not be able to speak for your situation, and that is okay. Every relationship is different, and every relationship has the ability of ending differently. In examining the amount of pain a divorce can cause with or without children, they are addressing a gap of research data from Germany over the course of several years before and after a divorce.
The cultural differences in how emotions are handled and processed, as well as differences in socialization and how marriage and divorce are viewed in other countries, can help explain some of the variations in how one might view these results.
How someone feels about the end of their marriage is a personal sentiment that is difficult for data and research to generalize, especially with the emotional complexity of children added into the equation. Therefore, it is vital to understand that while studies may look to measure the pain in this situation, you and your children are more than study subjects. You all are more than the divorce.