Children of divorce have poorer math and interpersonal social skills than their peers, according to new research published Thursday in the American Sociological Review.
Additionally, the research found that children of divorce battle anxiety, loneliness, low self-esteem and sadness.
They have trouble forming and maintaining friendships, expressing their feelings in positive ways, showing sensitivity to others’ feelings, comforting other children and getting along with people who are different, according to Hyun Sik Kim, the study’s author and a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Kim looked at 142 children whose parents split up between first and third grade. He observed the children four times from kindergarten until fifth grade and found that children of divorce lagged behind other children by about 12% in terms of their progress on standardized math tests.
The reasoning behind Kim’s findings is not so surprising. Stressed-out parents can create stressed-out kids who turn inward to deal with the worries. “They may not want to meet other students and may have problems expressing their own feelings,” says Kim.
Kim suggests that it’s important for parents to communicate thoroughly about the reasons behind the divorce. “Even though my study does not investigate this, it’s important to speak openly about why they have decided to divorce,” says Kim. “If they understand, children may be able to concentrate better and form friendships.”