The “Good” Divorce

Researchers from Indiana University say that regardless of whether parents remain friends following divorce, it can still be just as damaging to the children. Today’s amicable divorces are “a far cry from the days when people were intent on keeping the past in the past and ex-partners were akin to sworn enemies.” To a child, however, “there is no amicable divorce.”

“We now have parents peacefully co-parenting after divorce,” the researchers said, but children struggle to understand why the parents cannot live together since they appear to still be friends.

These findings are based on studies of the lives of 270 couples who split between 1998 and 2004. The couples were asked to reveal how they felt their breakup had affected their youngest child, who were the average age of eight years old. Of these couples, 31 percent regarded their ex-spouses as co-operative and involved, 45 percent of ex-spouses were moderately involved in the lives of their children while the remaining 24 percent had infrequent and conflicted involvement.

The research showed that the children suffered external symptoms like behavioral problems and drug abuse and also had internal problems like anxiety and depression. Sadly, they found that these symptoms, including bad grades at school, continued to prevail whether or not the parents continued to fight after the separation.

On analysis, the study findings show that it is not only the conflict but the split itself that has damaging effects on the children. Parental behavior thereafter does nothing to ease the devastating effects.

Parents do not understand how a split affects their children.

Cooperative parents usually believe that they are cushioning their children against the potential effects of the split. However, this study, which has been published in the academic journal Family Relations, shows a mismatch in the perceptions of parents and those of their children. While getting along with the former spouse makes someone feel better about a marital failure, it apparently does little for the children.

To a child, friendly divorced parents make little sense. Parents can take comfort knowing the children will not be seriously harmed if a divorce was nasty and they can’t have a cordial relationship with their ex. Apparently, a good divorce is a myth.

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