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Illinois study looks at effects of parental divorce on children

According to a new study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, divorce may have a stronger effect on the parent-child relationship if the divorce occurred when the child was younger as opposed to older. The researchers concluded that a divorce during the first few years of a child's life can have negative effects on the relationship the child has with his or her parents as an adult.

A lead researcher with the University of Illinois said the goal of the study was to "learn more about how early experiences predict the quality of people’s close relationships later in life." He said parental divorce is a good way to study this because people can accurately report if and when their parents went through divorce even if they can't remember exact details about the divorce.

This study highlights the importance of addressing divorce with children in a healthy way even if the children are young when the divorce is occurring. One of the ways parents can help deter the negative effects of divorce on their children is by pursuing an amicable divorce instead of a highly-contentious one.

Many forms of alternative dispute resolution are available today to assist people through divorce with less conflict, including mediation. Mediation is a process in which the divorcing couple meets with a third-party neutral who helps them facilitate a workable settlement. In many cases, mediation can save a divorcing couple both financial and emotional costs.

While mediation doesn’t work in every case, it can often be used to successfully work out some or all issues within a divorce or family law case, including property distribution, custody and visitation, maintenance and support and removal of children from the state. If an agreement cannot be reached in mediation, the parties can resort to the traditional litigation model.

Source: Psych Central, "Divorce Troubles Younger Kids’ Later Relationship with Parents," Rick Nauert, Ph D, July 1, 2013

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