Divorce is difficult on any family. Many unhappy couples may wonder about the negative effects a divorce could have on their children. They may even consider staying together for the kids’ sake.
How resilient are children to their parents’ divorce? Are they likely to handle it better at certain ages than at others?
This year, the journal Social Science and Medicine published a study examining the effects divorces have on children ranging in age from three to 14. Of this group, the study found that children aged three to seven suffer no noticeable ill effects from their parents’ divorces.
By contrast, older children face more risks surrounding their parents’ divorce. The study found that children between the ages of seven and 14 whose parents get divorced are statistically more likely to experience conduct and emotional problems. Specifically, the study found that:
- Children in this age group are 16% more likely to experience mood disorders (such as depression or anxiety) than their peers with married parents.
- Children in this age group are 8% more likely to experience behavioral issues (such as acting our or disobeying) than their peers with married parents. Researchers found this effect to be especially likely among boys.
Is financial stability a factor?
Divorce often results in financial strain on at least one parent. This may affect their ability to provide for their child in the same way they once had. Therefore, researchers investigated whether family privilege or class had any influence on a child’s likelihood of experiencing mood disorders or behavioral issues.
The result? They found that such factors had no impact on a child’s mental wellbeing post-divorce.
How can you help your child adjust?
In their adolescent years, children are going through important developmental changes. They’re discovering their own individuality and identity. They also have higher emotional and relational sensitivity than younger children. This can make them less resilient to major life changes. Because of this, it’s important for parents to be emotionally available to their children in the seven to 14 age group.
Should you hold off on your divorce?
Staying together just for the children can be an unhealthy decision that will not benefit anyone in the family. This is especially so when there is a lot of conflict in the custody battle. Older children whose parents divorce can still flourish in adolescence. Being aware of how you can support them emotionally is an important first step to helping them cope.