Children `suffer trauma of divorce into adult life'

BRITISH PSYCHOLOGICAL SOCIETY: Celia Hall at the annual meeting in Warwick

Divorce seriously affects the academic prospects of children of broken marriages, with other long-lasting effects reaching into their adult lives, a psychologist said yesterday.

Middle-class girls now in their late thirties whose parents split up were found to be half as likely to have gone to university as the daughters of stable marriages. At the same time 45 per cent of the middle-class girls were married before the age of 20, compared with 15.6 per cent of girls whose parents stayed married. The chances of carrying marriage break- up into another generation were already set, since the younger people marry, the more likely they are to divorce.

Middle-class boys had a quarter to a third less chance of getting to university, according to the study.

Martin Richards, director of the Centre for Family Research at Cambridge University, said children whose parents split up did less well at school, had more behaviour problems, cohabited, married and had children younger. In early adult life they were likely to be poorer, in worse jobs and have more psychological illness.

The work is based on a number of studies, including a continuing survey of 17,000 children born in a week of March 1958. In this group, 800 had parents who divorced by the time the children were 16 and they have formed the basis for much of Dr Richards's work.

"Divorce may be the best thing for some women but it is very seldom the best for the children. What is unique about divorce for a child is that a parent has chosen to leave," he said at the annual meeting of the British Psychological Society at the University of Warwick.''

"There is something special and specific about divorce as it affects children ... It is partly poverty, as income in divorced families tends to fall, and partly to do with self-esteem. If a father has left and is not supporting the home in the same way, the child sees it as a judgment on their self-worth. Low self-esteem is not good for school work.''

Dr Richards believes some of these effects could be lessened by easily available counselling: "If they talked more I'm sure it would help them." He criticised the recent Green Paper on divorce for not including specific practical help directed at the children. "There is nothing in it at all about child-counselling."

Nor was it ever too late to get help. "There is now very good evidence that events in the later lives of children of divorced parents can get into difficulties when they move into relations themselves and when they have their own children," Dr Richards said.

Asked if he could envisage a day when a child might take its parents to court to prevent them divorcing because of its possible effects on that child's life, he said it was a possibility.

He also pointed out that single parenthood by itself did not seem to disadvantage children in the same way. "It appears that it is the upheaval of divorce plus the associated drop in income which is crucial."

Mothers and fathers whose children were conceived by test tube baby technology are "better" parents than those who conceived their babies naturally.

Dr Rachel Cook of the City University, London, told the meeting that genetic ties were less important for family functioning than a strong desire to have children.

She compared 41 families where a child had been conceived by in vitro fertilisation, 45 where the child resulted from donor insemination, 43 where the child had been conceived naturally and 55 where the child had been adopted.

She found that the mothers who had IVF or donor insemination babies were warmer towards their child than those mothers who had conceived their baby naturally. Similarly, they were also more emotionally involved with their child.

Parents using either method of assisted reproduction showed more interaction with their children and were also more relaxed. Parents whose children were conceived naturally showed more stress.

There had been concerns about the new reproductive technologies, said Dr Cook, but the quality of parenting in such cases was "superior to that shown by the families with a naturally conceived child".

Susan Golombok, Professor of Psychology at City University, said that a separate study has shown that children of lesbian mothers are no more likely to be homosexual than others.

She has followed 25 young adults who grew up in lesbian families, and 21 raised by heterosexual single parents. While two girls of the lesbian mothers - but none from the other group - formed same-sex relationships, this was no greater than the reported incidence of homosexuality in the community. To think lesbian mothers perversely influenced their children "would be a mistake".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly finalists Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge
tvLive: Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge face-off in the final
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United in 2012
footballRonnie Moore says 'he's served his time and the boy wants to play football'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture