It’s a well-known phenomenon that some couples living in a broken marriage will put off a divorce until the children are grown up and independent. But in Illinois and elsewhere, does that make things worse for children who must live under the continuing stress of a problem-filled marriage? An article in Scientific American recently took up this important family law question and provided some reassuring news for parents contemplating a divorce.

The article surveys researchers’ findings from a number of family law studies and concludes that the great majority of children recover fairly quickly from the initial trauma of a divorce. Although children are likely to experience negative feelings of anger, anxiety and shock from the initial news, these symptoms will usually disappear by the first or second year. One family law study followed the children of divorced parents and a group with married parents into later childhood and beyond.

The studies revealed only minimal differences in behavior, delinquency, self-confidence and social relationships between children of divorced parents and those from intact marriages. The conclusion was that the vast majority of children endured divorce well. Some of the research even suggested that some children benefit when the arguing and other marital conflict is brought to an end.

In those children who do suffer long-term problems these may have been generated by higher levels of bickering and conflict of the parents during the divorce. Parents should accordingly limit their emotional content and minimize the child’s exposure to it. Furthermore, it’s an accepted family law principle that when parents tend to manipulate their children like chess pieces during contentious divorce and custody proceedings, there is a detrimental effect. Additionally, it’s shown that children do better when the custodial parent is nourishing, emotionally-supportive and even-handed with the children after the divorce.

The Scientific American article makes the general conclusion that most children of divorce become well-adjusted adults. This is reassuring family law news for parents in Illinois and other states who are concerned about the effect of divorce on their children’s welfare. It’s also encouraging to know that where parents make the effort to follow certain recommended behaviors and approaches during and after the divorce, that these efforts will result in permanent benefits to the children.

Source:, “Is Divorce Bad for Children? ” Hal Arkowitz and Scott Lillienfeld, March 19, 2013