That divorce has a major impact on the lives of children is axiomatic; it is rare that a child is better served by their parents divorcing than if they stayed together (though exceptions exist where a child’s home life with two warring parents is far worse than a peaceful single-parent household). Even if a divorce results in a better home life for a child, there is a psychological impact on a child and how they view and approach personal relationships as they get older.
In a recent article on www.sciencedaily.com, two studies are reported on which examined the impact of divorce when it occurs early in a child’s life. In one study, 7,735 people were surveyed about their personality and close relationships. More than one-third of the participants experienced their parents’ divorce at an average age of 9 years old. These individuals were “less likely to view their current relationships with their parents as secure. And people who experienced parental divorce between birth and 3 to 5 years of age were more insecure in their current relationships with their parents compared to those whose parents divorced later in childhood.”
One of the doctors conducting the study, R. Chris Fraley of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is quoted as saying, “[a] person who has a secure relationship with a parent is more likely than someone who is insecure to feel that they can trust the parent… [such] a person is more comfortable depending on the parent and is confident that the parent will be psychologically available when needed.” The study also found that parental relationships with fathers are more affected by divorce than with mothers and that there is greater insecurity with paternal relationships than maternal.
These studies will undoubtedly inform and influence the counseling of children (and adults) affected by divorce. Though divorces will occur, a greater understanding and emphasis as to how divorces affect people will hopefully result in children of divorce having better relationships with their parents post-divorce, but also have secure, solid relationships when they are adults.