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Divorce Could Lead to a Worse Parent-Child Relationship

Update Date: Jul 02, 2013 03:27 PM EDT

When parents get divorced, the effects it has on children have been studied repeatedly. Understanding how divorce can negatively impact children can help with screening children who are high risk of developing bad behaviors, such as drinking and smoking. In a new study, however, researchers focused on the effects of divorce on the relationships that the children build with their parents and with romantic partners.

The research team, with lead author, Dr. Chris Fraley from the University of Illinois and graduate student, Marie Heffernan, did two studies to test the effects of divorce on children at different ages. The first study surveyed 7,735 people and recorded their answers regarding personality and close relationships. In this sample set, over 1/3 of them had divorced parents. The average age when a child went through a divorce was nine. The researchers found that when the divorce happened to the child at the ripe age range of three to five, the children reported feeling more insecure about their relationships with their parents. More children felt insecure with their paternal relationship.

"By studying variation in parental divorce, we are hoping to learn more about how early experiences predict the quality of people's close relationships later in life," Fraley said according to Daily Mail.

To test their findings, the researchers administered a second survey to a new group of 7,500 people. In this survey, the researchers added the variable of parental custody. In this sample set, 74 percent of children lived with their mothers, 11 percent lived with their fathers and the other children lived with other guardians. The researchers found that children who lived with their mothers felt more insecure about their relationships with their fathers. The reverse was also experienced.

"The work is valuable as it suggests that something as basic as the amount of time that one spends with a parent or one's living arrangements can shape the quality of child-parent relationships," Dr Fraley said.

The researchers did not find a strong link between divorce and romantic relationships. The study was published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.  

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