Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

Stable Families Help With Divorce Impact

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Research done at Ohio State University suggests that children do much better as adults if after a divorce, their lives remain stable. In fact what happens after the divorce seems to be more important than the divorce itself.

Yongmin Sun and Yuanzhang Li of the Allied Technology Group used data from the National Education Longitudinal Study that studied youth between the ages of 14 and 26 and compared children who grew up in always-married households (n=5,303), children whose parents divorced before age 14, but whose lives stayed stable (n=984), and children whose parents divorced before age 14 and whose family situation changed more than once between the ages of 14 and 18 (n=697).

Stability is defined as experiencing lower income, custody changes, having a parent who does not talk about school-related matters, is not involved with school and the community on behalf of the child, does not invest in the well-being of the child, and changes schools.

Results showed that young adults who grew up in stable post-divorce families had similar chances of attending college and living in poverty compared to those from always-married families. However, they were less likely to get a higher degree, and had lower prestige and income as young adults.

Young adults with unstable families (mostly represented by custody & school changes) after divorce earned substantially less money than young adults with stable teen years, got less education, and had less prestigious jobs at 26. One hypothesized explanation for these results is that having a stable home life and an involved parent allows an adolescent to focus on their own developmental needs and process, supporting a successful transition to adulthood.
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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