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children and divorceFiling for divorce early in a child’s life can cause parental detachment, according to a new study reported in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

The study noted that of the 7,335 mostly female participants, those individuals coming from households where parents had decided on filing for divorce proved to be “more anxious or aloof” in their relationships to parental figures later in life. While the effect was relatively small, it showed a stronger intensity in one particular area.



Divorce In Early Child Development And Forming Attachments

Surprisingly, children in very early stages of development (birth to age five) showed the greatest level of detachment from their parents as adults. Furthermore, all individuals from homes where parents had decided on filing for divorce showed a stronger relationship with the parent, who had custody in the aftermath of the divorce (usually mom).

“We do not know whether this is a causal relationship; it could very well be the case that many custody arrangements are driven, in part, by the existing quality of the relationship between parents and children,” said R. Chris Fraley, head researcher and psychologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in comments to LiveScience.

Effect On Future Relationships

Luckily, in spite of the parental detachment, the study shows no real evidence that individuals from divorced households have issues forming close bonds in adult romantic relationships.

As Fraley notes: “This does not mean that early experiences determine our future. But some of our research indicates that the residue of experiences that take place early on might be more substantial than experiences that take place later.”

The Takeaway

You begin building your relationship with your children from the day they’re born, and possibly before that. If you’re thinking about filing for divorce, be mindful of how it will affect them in the years to come, and above all, be present. You may not be able to save a marriage, but you can let your children know you’ll always be there for them whenever they need you.

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