Study: Children of divorce lag behind peers in math and social skills

June 02, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC, May 24, 2011 -- Children whose parents get divorced generally don't experience detrimental setbacks in the pre-divorce period, but often fall behind their peers--and don't catch up--when it comes to math and interpersonal social skills after their parents begin the divorce process, according to a new study.

In addition, the study, which appears in the June issue of the American Sociological Review, finds that children of divorce are more likely to struggle with anxiety, loneliness, low self-esteem, and sadness. This increase in "internalizing problem behaviors" also begins during the divorce process and does not dissipate.

"People tend to think that couples go through intense marital conflict before they decide to divorce," said study author Hyun Sik Kim, a PhD candidate in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "My original prediction was that children of divorce would experience negative impacts even before formal divorce processes began. But, my study finds that this is not the case."

Instead, Kim finds that children begin experiencing developmental problems after their parents commence the divorce process, and these issues continue to plague them even after the divorce is finalized. Interestingly, these problems neither worsen nor improve following the divorce.

"This study reveals that these negative impacts do not worsen in the post-divorce stage, although there is no sign that children of divorce catch up with their counterparts either," Kim said.

Relying on nationally representative data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Class 1998 to 1999, the study traces the development of 3,585 kids from the time they entered kindergarten in the fall of 1998 through fifth grade, and compares children of divorce with kids from intact families. A unique feature of the study is that it focuses on divorces that occur when children are between first and third grade, which enables Kim to examine the effects of divorce during three separate stages: pre-divorce (kindergarten to first grade), during-divorce (first to third grade), and post-divorce (third to fifth grade).

According to Kim, there are many reasons why children whose parents are divorced or in the process of getting divorced would experience developmental setbacks.

These factors may include stress that children experience as result of seeing their parents blaming each other for the divorce or arguing about custody; an unstable living situation in which children are shuttled between parents or forced to move to another region with a parent who receives primary or sole custody, thus disrupting the children's social network; economic hardship due to a sudden drop in family income; and residual effects of a parent's divorce related depression, Kim said.

"Having one's parents go through a divorce can be very unsettling for a child," Kim said.

While the study finds that divorce has adverse effects on children's math test scores, interpersonal social skills, and internalizing problem behaviors, in general, children of divorce don't experience negative impacts on their reading scores or "externalizing problem behaviors," which indicates how often they do such things as argue, fight, or get angry.
-end-
About the American Sociological Association and the American Sociological Review

The American Sociological Association (www.asanet.org), founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions to and use of sociology by society. The American Sociological Review is the ASA's flagship journal.

The research article described above is available by request for members of the media. For a copy of the full study, contact Daniel Fowler, ASA's Media Relations and Public Affairs Officer, at (202) 527-7885 or pubinfo@asanet.org.

American Sociological Association

Related Divorce Articles from Brightsurf:

Shorebirds more likely to divorce after successful breeding
Research led by the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath found that a range of factors affected the fidelity and parenting behaviour of plovers, rather than being defined by the species.

Study shows effects of Chinese divorce law on women's wellbeing
In a new study, Yale sociologist Emma Zang examined the consequences of the 2011 judicial interpretation on the well being of men and women.

Teens need to text, talk with parents often to maintain youth resiliency after a divorce
Texting, FaceTime and other popular communication methods among teens may help build supportive parent-youth relationships after a divorce, according to a Kansas State University family studies researcher.

'Unreasonable behaviour' most common ground for divorce (new research suggests)
A new Oxford University study charts the changes in the main 'facts' that husbands and wives give for petitioning for divorce, since the Divorce Reform Act 1969 was implemented in 1971.

Smoking, lack of exercise linked to early death after divorce
A growing body of research links divorce to a wide range of poor health outcomes, including greater risk for early death.

Predictors for infidelity and divorce highlighted in new research
New research from Florida State University highlights ways to keep love and also identifies clear predictors for failed relationships.

Why rural coal families are less likely to divorce
Rural coal-mining families show resilience against divorce when faced with the economic downturns common in the industry, a new study suggests.

Why does divorce run in families? The answer may be genetics
Children of divorced parents are more likely to get divorced when compared to those who grew up in two-parent families -- and genetic factors are the primary explanation, according to a new study by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University and Lund University in Sweden.

Fertility treatment does not increase the risk of divorce
Despite repeated claims that the disappointments of infertility and stress of treatment can put intolerable strain on relationships, a large nationwide study involving more than 40,000 women has found that fertility treatment does not increase the risk of divorce.

Parents' divorce increases risk of health disorders in children
The children's well-being is usually one of the biggest concerns when a couple gets a divorce.

Read More: Divorce News and Divorce Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.