Don’t Stay for the Sake of the Children, Research Shows

A recent British survey revealed that children would rather have their parents separate or divorce than stay in an unhappy marriage.

By Avital Borisovsky
Updated: September 21, 2016
Sake of the Children

A new poll that was released on Sunday revealed that around eight out of ten young people between the ages of 14 and 22 would rather have their parents go through separation or divorce than stay together if they are unhappy in their marriage.

The poll, which was carried out on behalf of Resolution – an organization that represents 6,500 family lawyers in England and Wales – surveyed 514 youths who had experienced parental separation. There were several key findings.

According to the results, 82% of the young people surveyed revealed that a divorce was a better outcome for the family than staying in an unhappy marriage.

“Being exposed to conflict and uncertainty about the future are what’s most damaging for children, not the fact of divorce itself,” said Jo Edwards, chair of Resolution. “This means it is essential that parents act responsibly, to shelter their children from adult disagreements and take appropriate action to communicate with their children throughout this process, and make them feel involved in key decisions, such as where they will live after the divorce.”

Half of those surveyed stated they had no choice in whom they would live with after their parents’ divorce, and 62% mentioned that their parents did not make them part of the divorce decision-making process.

“Of course, children usually find their parents’ separation extremely upsetting, but as this research demonstrates, eventually many come to terms with the situation and adjust to changes in family life,” explained Relate counsellor Denise Knowles. “There are plenty of steps that separating parents can take to ensure they reduce the negative impact on their children such as working to avoid constant arguing or speaking badly of the other parent in front of the kids.”

Half of the young people polled said that during the separation or divorce, their parents put their children’s needs first, and only two in ten felt like their parents’ split was their fault.

However, not everyone is supporting the recent report. Supporters of marriage have had a negative reaction to the poll's findings, stating that children prefer their families stay intact.

According to the Daily Mail, the last major British study on how divorce affects children, which was performed in the 1990s, revealed that while children were negatively affected by their parents’ fighting, separation and the loss of a parent had a greater overall impact on children.

Sir Paul Coleridge, founder of the UK Marriage Foundation and a former family-court judge, believes that couples should stay together for the sake of their kids. “If you’re not at each other’s throats, you can turn your marriage around,” he states. “Rigorous long-term studies invariably say the effects of divorce bubble on into adulthood.”

He told the Daily Mail that: “Family breakdown has to be confronted for the real and lasting damage it does to children and not massaged away by superficially comforting and, from the family lawyers’ point of view, self-serving platitudes,.”

Resolution’s study included five qualitative interviews with young people living in London.

One young person who was interviewed said: “I think parents, generally, should do what’s best for them. If it had been a few years’ earlier and they’d have said to me, ‘Oh, we’re considering getting a divorce. How do you feel about it?’ I would have been like, ‘No, don’t do it mum.’ But then what happens if they take that advice? They’d stay together for a few more years and then, you know, once their kids go it all falls apart anyway. So I think once it happened, I had a better time hanging out with my dad and my mum separately than I did when they were together."

The poll was conducted between Aug. 20 and Sept. 20, 2014. Each of the 514 young people who participated in the interview had parents who had been divorced or separated for over a year.

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November 27, 2015

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