Here’s a news flash. The “experts” disagree! Many well-respected studies over the years have concluded that kids are often negatively impacted as a result of their parent’s divorce. However according to Allen Li, of the prestigious RAND Corporation’s Population Research Center in Santa Monica, California, most kids are not seriously affected by the divorce in the long term, but a divorce raises the risk that a child will have future problems. Li presented his findings in Chicago April 26, 2008, at a meeting of the non-profit Council on Contemporary Families.
The study by Li was based upon a large sample-6,332 children. His methodology differed from that which was used by others in the past. He didn’t measure children of divorced parents with children of married parents. Instead, he measured behavior problems such as crying, cheating or arguing frequently, in children ages four to fifteen before and after their parents’ split. He describes it as a “longitudinal approach”. Li found a slight increase in bad behavior on post-divorce children but excluded the finding because it was so slight. In the abstract to his study, Li concludes “that children of divorce would have fared equally well/poor in terms of their emotional well-being if their parents had remained married.” The study suggested that many of the children’s problems could be the result of pre-existing personal characteristics that would be a factor in emotional and behavioral issues even if their parents had remained married.
It appears that many noted experts have real problems with Li’s approach. They believe that his methodology was not valid; and therefore, the results are both skewed and unreliable. To me, the scientific debate over the methodology utilized isn’t the crux of the value of the study. Nor, who is right or wrong, but rather, what can we learn from it? In my experience of having handled divorce cases for thirty years, it seems it is not the divorce per se which tends to cause the children problems, but rather the level of acrimony and hatred spilling over between divorcing parents on to their children. I have no scientific study to base my opinions, just my talking to clients and their kids for a lot of years and perhaps applying some good old common sense.
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Robert L. Mues
Robert Mues is the managing partner of Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has received the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. Mr. Mues is also a founding member of the "International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce over 50" blog.