Studies indicate a correlation between parents’ divorce and negative outcomes for the children, such as mental health complaints and risky behaviors. The findings have prompted some couples to try to stay together for their children’s sake.
According to Psychology Today, further analysis has revealed that it is not their parents’ divorce or living in a single-parent household that damages kids. Rather, it is ongoing family conflict.
What are the implications for parents thinking about divorce?
Analysis going back as far as the 1970s shows that prolonged family conflict can adversely affect children’s mental health, self-esteem, school success, adjustment ability and future relationships. Parental conflict is particularly damaging, and the effects can last for decades.
The research shows that it is the conflict that is the problem, not the divorce. Therefore, if parents continue fighting even after their divorce, the negative effects on the children are likely to be greater. However, if divorce ends the conflict, it could be better for children in the long run than if the parents tried to stay together despite an inability to work out their differences.
What can parents do to help their kids?
Since it is the conflict between parents that is most damaging to kids rather than the divorce itself, parents should look for ways to minimize conflict during and after the split. They should put aside their own adversarial or vengeful feelings and think about what is best for the children.
Parents may feel less stress with a parenting plan that includes a lot of detail and leaves little room for disagreement. Less stress may translate to less conflict, which is better for the kids in both the short and long term.