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Parents Warned Delaying Divorce Could Have Detrimental Impact On Children

January 28th, 2019

Fear of upsetting children is perhaps the biggest deterrent for unhappy married couples to seek a divorce, with most parents wanting to avoid putting their kids in the middle of their dispute and tear up their family unit.

However, they could be doing more damage by staying in the relationship and putting off a legal separation for many years, if a recent study is anything to go by.

According to researchers from the University College London (UCL) for Longitudinal Studies, youngsters are likely to cope better with their parents’ divorce the younger they are.

Analysing data from 6,000 children in Britain, they found that children whose parents split up when they were between seven and 14 were more likely to suffer from mental health issues. Indeed, the findings revealed a 16 per cent increase in emotional problems and an eight per cent growth in conduct challenges in the short-term among this age group compared with younger children.

Comparatively, those who were between three and seven when their mothers and fathers divorced did not have a higher chance of suffering mental health problems than youngsters living with both parents.

Co-author of the study Emla Fitzsimons said: “[The study] finds that family splits occurring in late, but not early, childhood are detrimental to adolescent mental health.”

She went on to say: “One possible reason for this is that children are more sensitive to relationship dynamics at this age. Family break-ups may also be more disruptive to schooling and peer relationships at this stage of childhood.”

The research found there to be no difference between children from privileged or less advantaged backgrounds when it comes to their likelihood of suffering mental health problems as a result of their parents getting a divorce.

However, losing an earner from the household was shown to have a negative financial impact on the family. This was found to be harder to cope with the older the children are, perhaps because parents earn more money as their kids grow up, and therefore, one-parent homes will feel a greater loss of finances with teens than toddlers.

When it comes to parents’ emotional reactions to divorce, the research discovered that mothers suffer from more mental health issues the older their children are when they separate.

Dr Aase Villadsen, another co-author of the study, said this finding is “important”, suggesting this could have an impact on children as well.

“In devising policies to help reduce the adverse consequences of break-ups on children’s mental health, the study suggests that maternal mental health may be an important target.”

UCL’s report is likely to be of significant interest to many parents this month, as January typically sees more divorce applications than any other month.

According to support service Amicable, over 40,000 people look up ‘divorce’ on the internet in January, which is 25 per cent higher than during the rest of the year, the Evening Standard reported.

If you’re considering a separation and think this is the best time to do it for the sake of your children, why not chat to one of our divorce solicitors in Buckinghamshire today for some advice?


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