Income may influence children’s emotional well-being after divorce

A recent study has found that higher-income children are more likely to suffer more during a divorce. Call Mysti Murphy at 210-807-8227.

Many divorcing parents fear that their decision to split up will scar their children for life. However, a recent study from Georgetown University found that the majority of children handle divorce rather well, although children from high-income families are the most likely to suffer.

The study, which was conducted in collaboration with the University of Chicago, examined 4,000 children from mothers between the ages of 14 and 21. The study began in 1979 with each mother being asked every two years to complete a survey about their family structure, income level and the emotional state of their children. From the survey results and observations of the children, the researchers were able to piece together each child's emotional state as their lives progressed.

Once the data was analyzed, the researchers found that children in most families were able to cope well with their parent's divorce. However, an exception was children from parents with a higher income. From their observations, the researchers supposed that this could occur for a couple of reasons. The first reason was that fathers in the high-income households studied were the primary or sole breadwinner in 60 percent of cases. Since the father is the parent that leaves the household in most cases of divorce, the children experience a steep drop in income. This sudden loss of income may drive significant changes (e.g. to change schools or move) in the lives of the children, which may in turn cause them a significant amount of anxiety.

The researchers considered the possibility that high-income children suffer more because they found that divorce is less common among high-income households than middle or low ones. Because of this fact, mothers and children in this situation may have less support from their high-income peers than other families, where divorce is more common.

Supporting your children in a divorce

According to the study's findings, remarriage is an effective way to help your children cope with their changed circumstances. The study concluded that children of all income levels showed significant emotional improvement with the assistance of a supportive stepparent.

In addition, it is important for divorcing parents to do what they can to make their separation as easy as possible for their children to accept. To do so, experts offer the following advice:

• Tell your children about the basic facts of the divorce (i.e. who will live where, custody arrangements, etc.) as early as possible. If possible, this should be done when both spouses are present.

• Avoid giving too much information or information that would upset them (e.g. spousal infidelity or abuse)

• Do not disparage your spouse in front of the children.

• Remind the children that they are not to blame for the divorce and that both parents still love them.

Although your children may initially be upset, once you have told them about your divorce, it is important to watch for any significant behavioral changes. If your child suddenly becomes aggressive, withdrawn or has academic or behavioral problems at school, it may be a wise decision to seek the help of a counselor.

Although divorce can be a painful experience emotionally, it does not have to be the acrimonious ordeal that was its reputation in the past. Today, alternate dispute resolution options, such as mediation, are available that allow couples to work together to achieve a mutually beneficial result for themselves and their children.

To learn more about your options, contact an experienced family law attorney. An attorney can listen to your concerns and recommend the best way to maximize the chance of a smooth transition.

Keywords: divorce, dispute resolution