As I have mentioned many time on my blog, children suffer the worst in divorce. While the emotional anguish a man after a divorce feel is incredibly difficult to deal with, children do not have the sort of maturity to understand and process what is happening. However, I read an article recently that challenged this view and indicated that children might have no long lasting issues due to divorce . So what is the truth of the matter? Is divorce really bad for kids or not?
The article states this:
Divorce affects most children in the short run, but research suggests that kids recover rapidly after the initial blow. In a 2002 study psychologist E. Mavis Hetherington of the University of Virginia and her then graduate student Anne Mitchell Elmore found that many children experience short-term negative effects from divorce, especially anxiety, anger, shock and disbelief. These reactions typically diminish or disappear by the end of the second year. Only a minority of kids suffer longer. – (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=is-divorce-bad-for-children)
I really question the methodology of this survey. They do not elaborate very much on how they came to the conclusion that kids do not suffer very long, or that it does not effect them further into adulthood. There is no mention of how big the sample size for this is either – though perhaps the book they are taking this from goes into more depth. MY personal opinion is that there is a LOT of damage that a BAD divorce can do to children in the short and long term. While children are very good at bouncing back from many of life’s troubles, how many times have we heard of men and women who have serious issues that come from buried memories and emotions they could never get through as a child. No survey can go that deep unless they are doing some serious psychological profiling.
Now, it does clarify that children coming from divorces that are extremely bad are going to suffer the most, while those who divorce well lead to happier children. That seems a no-brainer to me. However it goes on to state this which has me worried about the message and methodology again:
These findings suggest that only 15 percent of adult children of divorce experience problems over and above those from stable families. No one knows whether this difference is caused by the divorce itself or by variables, such as poorer parenting, that often accompany a marriage’s dissolution.
So what they are saying is they do not consider the quality of life and the parenting patterns after divorce to be a part of how divorce affects children? How can it NOT be a part of this equation. How do they measure this? 15% seems too low to me, but it shows that it certainly does effect children long term and this is a MINIMUM number as I am certain they did not dig deep enough to find more problems.
Now, I do not want to scare men recovering from divorce about the state of their children. In fact I am encouraged that there are signs that children do bounce back fast from divorce. It also re-enforces my point about good co-parenting that is essential to minimise the impact of divorce. Good management of your divorce with as little conflict as possible seems to be the way to mitigate the worst of divorce fallout on your children and it may lead to a good recovery for them in the long term. I hope that is a spot of light if you are worrying about the mental health of your children.
It also states that is a marriage was so full of conflict before the divorce, then a separation might actually be more beneficial to the child. So if you were in an abusive relationship it could be a better outcome that you split as well, but only as long as you continue to manage parenting them well.
My eBook on Men After Divorce is mostly about helping men get through the struggles of being a divorced man and dad very often. However I am not a child psychologist or expert on children apart from being a father myself – I will not pretend to be an expert. One person that Is an expert however is Wendy Mollah the author of a really cool children’s book called “But What about Me?“. If you are looking for a way to help your kids understand the divorce so you can be a good father and help them while you are helping yourself through the hard emotional slog of divorce, then this might be a good way to help. Check out her site here if you are looking for some help in this area, it might not be everyone’s cup of tea but it might be right up your alley too.