Posted on Aug 22, 2012

How does divorce and child custody decisions affect children? Studies have found a variety of results, and while some children seem to struggle with social an behavioral issues, future emotional and mental health problems, and trouble in school, other children are able to thrive regardless of whether their parents stay together.

Researchers have determined that some aspects of a child’s life in addition to their parents’ relationship – such as household income and inconsistent parenting – can affect their reaction to a divorce, especially if the parents have a contentious split or continue to have conflicts after the end of their marriage. New studies, however, are also considering that a child’s response to parental conflict and divorce might also have a genetic element.

Specifically, some children may have “protector” genes – a natural ability that makes them resistant to the affects of a tough family life or rough circumstances. Under this theory, two children who go through their parents’ divorce could have very different reactions and very different long-term consequences depending on their biological makeup.

A recent study of 1,000 Dutch teens found that children with certain dopamine genes were more likely to display antisocial behavior, depression, and aggressive responses following divorce. These children were also more likely to display similar behavior even if their parents remained married. The study suggests that while divorce can have a negative impact on a child’s mental health and social behavior, a child’s response to divorce can vary considerably, perhaps due to a genetic predisposition. At the same time, a child with certain genes may be likely to have similar issues as a child of divorce based on his or her genetic makeup.

Parents of Twins Slightly More Likely To Divorce, Study Says

It has been well documented that the divorce rate of couples who have triplets (or other multiple births) is much higher than that of couples who have one child at a time. Now, a new study has shed light on whether or not divorce rates go up when couples have twins.

Conducted by researchers at Mass General Hospital, and led by Dr. Anupam Jena, the study found that couples who have twins are slightly more likely to divorce than couples who don’t have twins. After analyzing data from the 1980 census, focusing on the marital status of the parents of twins, they found that parents who had single children had a divorce rate of 13 percent, while parents that gave birth to twins had a 14 percent divorce rate. While the difference seems small, it is statistically significant.

Why do the parents of twins have a harder time keeping their marriage healthy? Researchers say that twins, especially in the first few years, add a larger amount of stress and fatigue to a relationship – stress that could easily affect a couple’s relations. Then, as the twins grow older, the financial stress of having two children of the same age increases.

Jena was careful to point out that the results of the study shouldn’t discourage parents from having twins, though he hopes that it increases awareness. If a couple goes into the experience of having twins understanding what a challenge it is and how important it is to keep a focus on their relationship, their chances of divorce will likely decrease.

Read More About Genes May Help Determine How Children Respond to Divorce...

Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington