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".

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
News
people
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
Life and Style
fashion
News
i100
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst- Insurance

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst - Insurance ...

Recruitment Genius: Property Manager

£25000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent, growing Sales...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Multi-skilled graphic designer ...

Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solicitor

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solic...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?