Divorce affects children in different ways. A study from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) shows that divorce has a more significant impact on the academic performance of kids from financially stable families than their less privileged counterparts.
Jennie E. Brand, professor at the UCLA and lead author of the study, shares that a split lowers the educational attainment of a child. She elaborates, however, that the impact is only applicable to families where the divorce was unexpected.
The findings reveal that children from wealthy and well-educated families who had consulted a divorce lawyer had poorer academic performance than students already living in poverty.
The researchers cross-referenced data on the families and socio-economic background of 11,512 children and 4,931 mothers to identify who were more likely to call it quits. Then, they compared the educational outcomes of the children from divorced parents with those whose families were still intact.
Identifying Parents More Likely to Split Up
How did the authors weed out which families had a higher chance of untying the knot?
Brand explains that a family was more prone to splitting up when maternal depression, socioeconomic disadvantage, and differences between spouses were present. The authors also considered other factors, such as whether it was the first marriage, if there had been children from previous marriages, and more.
The data shows that kids with divorced parents are 6 percent less likely to finish high school and 15 percent less likely to obtain a college degree. For families already at high risk for calling it quits, however, there was nearly no impact on a child’s performance following a divorce. The researchers explain that children in that group already had disrupted lives and low grades.
High-income Kids Act Out More Following a Divorce
Both behavior and academic performance suffer. A study published in Child Development in 2014 reports that children from wealthy families have a higher chance of acting out and experiencing behavioral problems after a divorce than children from low-income families.
The authors surmise that fathers — often the breadwinners — move out, which results in a dip in household income. Sometimes, the change can lead to the kids moving to a different school, or the instability becomes too much for the kids to handle.
Less privileged households, on the other hand, regard family changes as more predictable and normative. As a result, dealing with a divorce is less stressful for them.
Focusing on Marital Stability
The findings of the UCLA study show the importance of establishing marital stability. But the authors caution wealthy families from misinterpreting the data and focusing on their marriages instead of getting their kids into college. Rather, the study suggests that a stable marriage should be the foundation for a child’s academic performance and future.
Fragile or broken families should, therefore, identify the factors that contributed to the split. These include child-rearing and other financial obstacles.
Is addressing poverty the key to saving marriages and making the home a conducive environment for young students to reach their full academic potential? No one can tell for sure. But every family, regardless of their financial and socioeconomic background, should make sure that their homes foster personal, spiritual, and academic growth.