You and your spouse are no longer happy together. Maybe there was a breach of trust, or maybe you’ve simply grown apart. Whatever the reason, you don’t feel that being tied to your partner is the right decision anymore.
If you have children together, you may be concerned about the impact that a divorce would have on them. You may be tempted to stay together for their benefit. But is this strategy really wise?
A new study published in the Social Science and Medicine journal has examined the impact of divorce on children of different ages. It found that children whose parents divorced when they were between ages seven and 14 were more likely to experience problems – compared to children in the same age range whose parents were married. These problems included:
- Behavioral issues (e.g., disobedience, acting out): 16% higher likelihood, especially among boys
- Emotional issues (e.g., anxiety, depression): 8% higher likelihood
Additionally, researchers found that a family’s class or privilege had no impact on a child’s mental wellbeing.
Interestingly, for younger children examined in this study (three to seven years old), there was no discernable difference in emotional and behavioral problems found between children whose parents were married or divorced.
Why the difference?
Experts speculate that older children experience more negative impacts from a divorce because older children are more likely to internalize problems. They are more sensitive to social situations and attuned to relationship dynamics in the family.
In addition, older children tend to have stronger bonds with friends and school, both of which may be disrupted in a divorce.
The above data is not to suggest that parents of older children should hold off on divorcing until their children are grown. If you are in an unhappy marriage, staying together with your spouse for the sake of the children will not create a healthy home environment and is not a good solution for anyone in the family.
However, the findings of this study point to the differing emotional needs of young children compared to adolescents. Teens and pre-teens are going through major developmental changes, including discovering a sense of identity. A significant change in their lives – such as divorce – can disrupt this process. However, having parents who are emotionally available can greatly help the child through the transition.