Education

Study Highlights Children’s Woes Prior to Breakups

By Deborah L. Cohen — June 19, 1991 1 min read
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Many of the behavioral problems displayed by children whose parents divorce are evident before the break0 up, according to a longitudinal study of the effects of divorce on children in the United States and Britain.0

The study, reported in the June 7 issue of the journal Science, noted that previous studies “leave no doubt” that, on average, children of divorced parents experience more emotional and behavioral problems and are less successful in school than those from intact families.

While most previous studies have focused on the period after divorce, however, the new study collected de0 tailed data on the period before the separation as well and compared children affected by divorce with those from intact families.

The findings, the authors conclud0 ed, suggest that family problems or discord before parents’ breakup may play as much of a role in children’s

Cognizant of the impact that the growing number of children of di vorced parents is having on the class0 room, many schools have launched counseling programs to help ease such pupils through difficult family transitions that may hamper their ability to learn. (See Education Week, June 14, 1989.)$

But the new data suggest that “teachers should be attuned to the problems kids may have in troubled intact marriages” and that “schools might consider offering support ser0 vices” for those children as well, said Andrew J. Cherlin, a professor of soci0 ology at Johns Hopkins University and the study’s principal researcher. The study, conducted by Mr. CherH0 lin and six other U.S. and British re$searchers, is based on two longitudi

In comparing the data on children whose parents divorced or separated during that time and those whose families remained intact, the re searchers concluded that “a sub stantial portion of what is usually considered the effect of divorce on children is visible before the parents separate,” particularly for boys.$

In both surveys, about half the be havioral and academic problems among the boys of parents who broke up were present before the separa tion. The same pattern held “to a less er but still noticeable extent” for girls in the British survey.

A version of this article appeared in the June 19, 1991 edition of Education Week as Study Highlights Children’s Woes Prior to Breakups

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