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Kim Johnson ReportingStaying together for the sake of the kids, for decades parents weighed marital satisfaction against their children's well-being when considering an amicable divorce. But a new study says there is no such thing as a good divorce for children.
Fifteen-hundred people were interviewed for the three-year study. Half from divorced families, the other half from intact families. Researchers concluded that low conflict, unhappy marriages are far better for children than amicable divorces.
We talked with a Utah marriage and family therapist and adult children of divorce to get their reaction.
Kerry Pate's parents divorced when she and her siblings were teenagers. She says it forced her to grow up overnight.
Kerry Pate, Child of Divorce: "You have to assume these adult dynamics as a child to balance these two different worlds with two different parents and two different places, two different homes now. I think that's a very adult thing to ask a child to do."
Pate says she agrees with the study's findings that no matter how amicable the split, children feel a lasting sense of inner conflict between their parents' different worlds, beliefs and values.
The study also found that children of divorce feel less safe, are afraid to trust, less likely to be religious, and forced to figure out the big questions in life alone, like choosing a mate.
Kerry Pate: "I'm so terrified of making that same mistake, not that I'll pick the wrong person, but that I'll be unsuccessful at being a good wife."
Steven Hyer married his wife this year. He says his parents' divorce has made him determined to succeed.
Steven Hyer, Child of Divorce: "With our marriage, it wasn't an option, divorce isn't an option so going into it with the divorce behind me, it did strengthen my resolve to say, yes I'm going to make this work."
Marriage and family therapist Liz Hale says the study is a wake up call for our culture.
Liz Hale, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist: "Too many of us in our low conflict marriages are putting down the divorce card, when we really ought to just stick it out. A lot of people regret their decision to divorce. The studies are very high, ninety percent realize my gosh, I'm not much happier."
And Kerry Pate has some food for thought for any parents thinking divorce is the answer.
Kerry Pate: "If you can choose between conflict and harmony, that requires some more effort, more forgiveness, more kindness more respect in your relationship and marriage. How much more of a benefit would that be to your children than divorce? That's a question you can ask yourself."
We want to emphasize that we're NOT talking about abusive marriages. Divorce would certainly be better for children in those cases. And most children of divorce do grow into successful adults, they just report the process is more difficult for them.