Early Divorce Can Affect the Parent-Child Relationship for Many Years

New research suggests that early divorce has a greater impact on the child-parent relationship if the divorce occurs in the first few years of the child’s life. In fact, early divorce in children’s lives can affect their later relationships. A new study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggests that very young children who witness their parents’ divorce tend to have more insecure relationships with their parents, even into adulthood, when compared to children who witness their parents’ divorce at an older age. However, regardless of what age the children were when their parents divorced, the study found that people from divorced families were less likely to view their current relationships with their parents as reliable.

Interestingly, early divorce tends to affect some, but not all, of these children’s relationships later in life. Parental divorce tended to predict greater insecurity with people’s relationship with their fathers, rather than their mothers.

The authors explain that a person who has a secure relationship with a parent feels like he or she can trust the parent, is comfortable depending on the parent and is confident that the parent will be psychologically available to that person when needed.

For Texas parents going through a divorce, particularly with very young children, it is critically important for parents to understand how a child understands and perceives a secure relationship with his or her parents.  Additionally, divorcing parents should make a conscious effort to develop and build the sense of trust that a child has in each parent so that the child feels that he or she can depend on the parent to be both physically present and psychologically present to support the child.

When parents are structuring child custody arrangements in Houston family law courts, they should both be mindful of the importance of each parent’s relationship with the child and how that relationship can build the child’s trust, security and well-being. After divorce, the continuity of both parents being present in the child’s life will increase the child’s sense of security and trust in their parents as the children will know that they can count on and depend on both Mom and Dad being there and doing what they say will do.

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