Study: Young Children of Divorce Struggle With Parental Relationships

Posted on Jul 30, 2013

A new divorce study, published in the autumn issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, has found that people have a more difficult time forming close relationships with their parents if their mother and father divorced when they were young. The study sheds light on the complex consequences of divorce on children, and researchers hope that the information will make parents more aware of their relationship with their children during and after they split from their spouse.

The study, which surveyed almost 8,000 people regarding their relationships, found that those who had their parents’ divorce between birth and age five had a more difficult time establishing a close relationship with both of their parents. Researchers found that these people not only described the relationship with their parents as unstable, but also reported that any relationship with a significant other was also more unstable. They also reported feeling more anxiety about relationships than people who did not experience a divorce as a child.

The researchers, who work at the University of Illinois, said that while going through a parents’ divorce when young does not have a blanket effect on all adult relationships, it could still affect some romantic relationships. In addition, children of divorce reported having a more strained or difficult relationship with the parent that they did not live with after the divorce. 

The study concludes that living arrangements and time spent with young children may affect the future strength of the parent-child relationship – and could affect the amount of relationship anxiety felt by those who experienced their parents’ divorce at a young age.

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