While the main variables found in the research were presented in Part I of my last blog article, there may be other variables that also impact children post-divorce. For any given family, how much each factor impacts the child will vary. For example, in high-conflict families, parental fighting may have the greatest negative impact on the children. Whereas in another family, where the parents get along well but reduced finances force them to relocate to a less desirable area and a main caregiver must return to work, financial issues may have the greatest negative impact on children.
Finally, if one accepts the research and belief that approximately 25% of children from parents who divorce have problems and that only 10% of children from intact families have difficulties, then what accounts for the 15% differential? See Hetherington & Kelly, supra note 50, at 150.
Based on a review of the research, it is clear that whether children thrive or founder may not be due to the divorce itself, but rather: (1) the level of conflict between parents, (2) children’s exposure to the conflict–including whether parents involve their children in the fighting, (3) parents’ inability to meet their children’s needs, (4) parents’ mental health, (5) the financial impact of the divorce, and (6) children’s own perceptions about the divorce. See David A. Sbarra & Robert E. Emery, Deeper into Divorce: Using Actor-Partner Analyses to Explore Systemic Differences in Coparenting Conflict Following Custody Dispute Resolution, 22 J. Fam. Psychol. 144 (2008). If there is a 15% differential, then most of this is likely accounted for by the above factors, the children’s exposure to it, leaving little left for divorce, in and of itself, as being a significant cause of harm to children. Furthermore, as has been pointed out by others, most children of divorce are indistinguishable from their peers whose parents did not divorce. In conclusion, it is argued that these five factors account for why some children have significant emotional or behavioral problems post-divorce and that it is not the divorce itself that causes these difficulties.