Divorce Early In Childhood Affects Parental Relationships In Adulthood

Divorce is the legal act of dissolving one’s marital union, terminating the matrimonial bond and releasing the two parties involved from the duties and responsibilities thereof.

Unlike an annulment, which declares a marriage null and void for reasons such as marrying while under the influence of drugs/alcohol and therefore incapable of making a rational decision, committing bigamy, misrepresenting sexual preference, or marrying under duress – divorce requires the sanction of a court or other authority in a legal process.

Divorce can be expensive and complicated, especially if one or both soon-to-be-ex spouses prolong the process unnecessarily. Often this is more emotionally based, driven by unresolved personal grievances and can take a toll on everyone involved.

The legal process of divorce may involve issues of alimony, child custody, child support, distribution of property, and division of debt. Even in the easiest of divorces – those that are amicable, with pre-nuptial agreements, a maintained division of property, and no children – can still be emotionally, physically, and psychologically taxing.

It is a stressful experience affecting finances and living arrangements. If the family includes children, they may be deeply affected as often times parents will feud bitterly in court, manipulating and further miring an already dreadful process with custody and support arguments.

Two studies, published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, address the impact of divorce on child-parent relationships especially if it occurs in the first few years of the child’s life. Those who experience parental divorce early in their childhood tend to have more insecure relationships with their parents as adults than those who experience divorce later, researchers say.

R. Chris Fraley, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, explains, “By studying variation in parental divorce, we are hoping to learn more about how early experiences predict the quality of people’s close relationships later in life.”

According to Medical Xpress, Fraley and graduate student Marie Heffernan examined the timing and effects of divorce on both parental and romantic relationships, as well as differences in how divorce affects maternal and paternal relationships.

Initially they analyzed data from 7,735 people who participated in a survey about personality and close relationships. Over one-third of the survey participants’ parents were divorced – the average age at the time of marital dissolution among respondents was nine.

Researchers found that individuals from divorced families were less likely to view their current relationships with their parents as secure. People who experienced parental divorce between birth and 3 to 5 years of age were more insecure in their current relationships with their parents compared to those whose parents divorced later in childhood, reports the Science Codex.

After repeating their analysis with a new set of 7,500 participants, they also found that parental divorce tends to predict greater insecurity in people’s relationships with their fathers than with their mothers.

However, this time they asked survey takers to indicate which of their parents had been awarded primary custody following their divorce. The researchers speculated that paternal relationships were more insecure following divorce because mothers are more likely than fathers to be awarded custody.

The majority, 74 percent, lived with their mothers, while 11 percent indicated living with their fathers; the remainder lived with grandparents or other caretakers.

People were more likely to have an insecure relationship with their father if they lived with their mother and, conversely, were less likely to have an insecure relationship with their father if they lived with him. The results were similar with respect to mothers.

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