Many marriages break down once the reality of daily life with the other person sets in. For childless couples, divorce is the obvious answer. Yet, if you have children, the decision is more complicated.
Many will tell you that divorce is bad for children, and you should stay together for the kids’ sake, at least until they are older and better able to cope. New research suggests this may be the wrong thing to do.
Researchers from University College London (UCL) found that if your marriage is not working, it might be better for your children if you divorce earlier. They have been studying 6,000 children born in the same year to see how their mental health changes with time.
When trying to isolate the effects of divorce on children’s mental health, they split the children into three categories and examined their mental health aged 14.
- Those whose parents split when they were 3 to 7 years old.
- Those whose parents split when they were 7 to 14 years old.
- Those whose parents remained together.
They found no difference in mental health between those whose parents divorced between 3 and 7 and those whose parents remained together. However, those whose parents split later, between 7 and 14, were 16% more likely to show emotional issues and 8% more likely to exhibit behavioral problems.
There are various theories given for these findings. It could be that time heals the wounds. It could be that older children suffer more disruption when their parents divorce, perhaps needing to change school or move away from friends. Or it could be that older children are more aware of when their parents do not get along. If the children are studied again in the future, this could shed more light.