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Witnessing conflict between the parents is very disruptive to children’s adjustment.Children exposed to conflict are more likely to have behavioral and emotional disturbances, suffer social and interpersonal problems, and show impairment in their thought and reasoning processes.One study cited by Cummings and Davies found that 66% of parental interactions after the divorce were marked by anger and conflict.Kelly noted that conflict drops significantly after the first two years for most divorced families, but for another 25% the level of stress after two years remains very close to the level of distress soon after the divorce.There’s a lot of research out these days on children of divorce after they grow up.However, if you review some of the key research published regarding adjustment of children during and soon after a divorce, you’ll find a lot of confusion.They are better able to use extra-familial support.

Several attachment styles can be seen: Parents of both the Avoidant and Ambivalent children can, after the stress of a difficult marriage and/or divorce, turn to their children for emotional support.

Other studies have shown about half of the behavioral, achievement, and emotional problems seen in boys from divorced families could be identified as early as four year prior to the divorce. Thus, the same factors that led to the divorce have likely already had a negative impact on children when the divorce actually occurs.

There seem to be three key areas to understanding how children will adjust in any specific case. Whiteside and Becker, in the March 2000 Journal of Family Psychology, note that what seems to matter most is helping children adjust in the two years after the divorce is for the children to experience an Authoritative style of parenting.

Children need supportive co-parenting; this means that parents must cooperate sufficiently well to see that the children’s needs are met.

The children do not need parents who fight and argue with each other in front of the children, or fight “through the children” by, for example, criticizing the absent parent in front of the children, or offering the damning comment, “You’re just like your Father/Mother.” Since the custodial parent has “expelled” the absent parent from their life for being “bad,” at least in the child’s mind, it stands to reason that the child too could be “bad” and be expelled from the home as well.

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