Children of Divorce: Divorce May Affect Wealthier Children More

Nearly 900,000 divorces and annulments occur each year in the United States. Couples of all races, religions, and income brackets are divorcing at fairly consistent rate. One of the primary concerns about divorce has always been how children of divorce adjust to their parents’ breakup. New research, however, seems to indicate that children of divorce who come from low to middle-income families fare better after divorce than their higher-income counterparts.

Rebecca M. Ryan, assistant psychology professor at Georgetown University, lead a team of researchers from Georgetown and the University of Chicago which looked at family structures and the behavioral impact of various factors. Published just last month, the study analyzed information from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, a federally sponsored research program that began in 1979. Ryan’s team found that the impact on children of divorce or separation was found primarily in high-income families. The study showed children of low and middle-income families were affected very little by comparison.

The research team offered speculation regarding the reasons behind the study’s findings. Divorce may cause a more significant change or loss in income for a higher earning family. This often leads to downsizing the family home, moving to a new area, and a change in schools, all of which may contribute to “negative behavioral outcomes.”

Ryan also noted that divorce is much more common among low and middle income families, so when it may seem more socially normal for those children of divorce. Conversely, as divorce is less common in higher-income families, the entire family is affected more. Divorcing parents can become extremely concerned about a social stigma and the change in lifestyle, and the children’s anxieties will often mirror those of their parents.

If a divorced parent remarries and a stepparent enters the picture, the study found that children’s behavior nearly always improved. Additional income, a happier parent, and an additional caregiver can all can help impact the initial divorce, Ryan suggests. High income children specifically may feel “more buoyed by the return to relative normalcy,” and find a renewed sense of security.

The research team emphasized, however, that their findings are not necessarily an indicator of what will happen for any one particular family. Each family situation is unique and comes complete with its own set of circumstances. It can be helpful to be aware of the risks and behavioral trends, but it is most important for parents to be mindful of how their own children may be affected by divorce or separation.

If you are considering divorce in Illinois, contact an experienced DuPage County family law attorney. We can help you throughout the divorce process while keeping your best interests and those of your children our top priority.