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Is divorce harder on wealthy children than on poor ones?

A study by researchers at two major universities found some interesting differences in the impact of divorce on young children in different economic groups. However, the findings raise even more questions about why these differences exist.

The study looked at 4,000 children from across the country. The differences in behavior among the income groups were noticeable only in young children. They found that children between 3 years old and 5 years old are the most vulnerable when their parents separated. They found "no effect of parental separation" on children between 6 and 12 years old, according to the study's lead author.

The researchers from the University of Chicago and Georgetown University found that children of high-income parents display more behavior problems than children in low-income families when their parents break up. While the study's author admits that it could not be determined with certainty why this difference exists, she posits a few theories.

A couple of those theories involve greater changes that occur in wealthier families when one parent leaves. For example, they may be more likely to move, which means that they need to adjust to a new school and find new friends. Further, in these families, the father is more likely to be the primary earner. Therefore, these children experience a greater change in the family's financial situation when the father leaves.

Characteristics of some lower-class families may account for why these children displayed fewer behavioral problems. The study's lead author notes, "Parental separation is more common among lower-income families." Therefore, family changes may be more common and therefore not as stressful on the children.

Interestingly, being blended into a stepfamily seemed to have a more positive impact on the behavior of children in higher-income families than those in lower-income ones. She notes that for low-income children, "the quality of the home environment, regardless of family structure, mattered most to social and emotional well-being."

Of course, every family dynamic is different. For example, if parents are battling over child custody or other issues, that can affect how much a child acts out during and after a divorce. Your Texas family law attorney may be able to offer guidance to help minimize the negative effects of your divorce on your child and perhaps provide a referral to a therapist who can help your child with feelings he or she may not be comfortable expressing to you.

Source: TIME Magazine, "Wealthy Kids Are More Affected by Divorce Than Poor Kids" Belinda Luscombe, Jan. 19, 2015

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