Divorce in Early Childhood Affects Parental Relationships in Adulthood

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Unknown-3Divorce has a bigger impact on child-parent relationships if it occurs in the first few years of the child’s life, according to new research.

Those who experience parental divorce early in their childhood tend to have more insecure relationships with their parents as adults than those who experience divorce later, researchers say.

“By studying variation in parental divorce, we are hoping to learn more about how early experiences predict the quality of people’s close relationships later in life,” says R. Chris Fraley of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Psychologists are especially interested in childhood experiences, as their impact can extend into adulthood, but studying such early experiences is challenging, as people’s memories of particular events vary widely.

Parental divorce is a good event to study, he says, as people can accurately report if and when their parents divorced, even if they do not have perfect recollection of the details.

In two studies published today in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Fraley and graduate student Marie Heffernan examined the timing and effects of divorce on both parental and romantic relationships, as well as differences in how divorce affects relationships with mothers versus fathers. In the first study, they analyzed data from 7,735 people who participated in a survey about personality and close relationships through yourpersonality.net. More than one-third of the survey participants’ parents divorced and the average age of divorce was about 9 years old.

The researchers found that individuals from divorced families were less likely to view their current relationships with their parents as secure. And people who experienced parental divorce between birth and 3 to 5 years of age were more insecure in their current relationships with their parents compared to those whose parents divorced later in childhood.

“A person who has a secure relationship with a parent is more likely than someone who is insecure to feel that they can trust the parent,” Fraley says. “Such a person is more comfortable depending on the parent and is confident that the parent will be psychologically available when needed.”

Read More: sciencecodex.com

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