Conflict, not Divorce, Affects Children of Divorce: Study

New research has put a wrench in the conventional belief that tolerating a conflict-filled marriage "for the sake of the children" is a wise move. In fact, that strategy may be causing children of divorce to divorce down the road.

By Josh Simon
Updated: July 17, 2014
divorce news

New research has put a wrench in the conventional belief that tolerating a conflict-filled marriage "for the sake of the children" is a wise move. In fact, that well-intentioned strategy may be causing children of divorce to un-tie their own marital knot down the road.

Here's the scoop: Researchers at New Jersey' Montclair State University:

  1. identified adult children who grew up in either high or low conflict families
  2. identified which parents (the low or high conflict pairs) eventually divorced
  3. circled back to the adult children, focused only on those who grew up in high conflict situations, and noted how many of them eventually divorced
  4. looked at whether it was their parent's divorce, orthe high conflict between them, that led to the adult children divorcing

Clear as mud? Don't worry. Here's the important part:

When the dust settled and the numbers were crunched, researchers arrived at the surprising insight that it was the high level of conflict -- and not the divorce itself -- that primarily influenced whether children of divorce experienced their own divorce down the road.

"We find that adult children exposed to high conflict and whose parents divorced are less likely to experience a cohabiting or marital break up compared to those who grew up with high conflict parents who remained married," noted Constance Gager, a sociologist and associate professor of Family and Child Studies at Montclair State University.

Apparently, it's the tone and tenor of their parent's relationship that children are picking up on, and will remember (consciously or otherwise) down the road if and when they march down the aisle...or march into family court.

Another implication of this study is that parents should be very aware of how they conduct themselves during and after divorce -- because their kids are watching. Indeed, it's been well documented that children are less affected by their parent's divorce than they are by how their parent's behave during and after the divorce.


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May 09, 2011

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