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Journal Issue: Children and Divorce Volume 4 Number 1 Spring/Summer 1994

Life-Span Adjustment of Children to Their Parents' Divorce
Paul R. Amato

Summary

Children who experience parental divorce, compared with children in continuously intact two-parent families, exhibit more conduct problems, more symptoms of psychological maladjustment, lower academic achievement, more social difficulties, and poorer self-concepts. Similarly, adults who experienced parental divorce as children, compared with adults raised in continuously intact two-parent families, score lower on a variety of indicators of psychological, interpersonal, and socioeconomic well-being.

However, the overall group differences between offspring from divorced and intact families are small, with considerable diversity existing in children's reactions to divorce. Children's adjustment to divorce depends on several factors, including the amount and quality of contact with noncustodial parents, the custodial parents' psychological adjustment and parenting skills, the level of interparental conflict that precedes and follows divorce, the degree of economic hardship to which children are exposed, and the number of stressful life events that accompany and follow divorce. These factors can be used as guides to assess the probable impact of various legal and therapeutic interventions to improve the well-being of children of divorce.