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Don’t Divorce Until Your Kids Are Five

Sad Little Girl Looks Out of Window on Rainy Day
Photograph by Getty Images/iStockphoto

Divorce sucks—for everyone, but especially for kids. And a new study has found a particularly vulnerable age: under 5.

The study, published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, examined data on over 7,700 participants. Over one-third had parents who had divorced, on average when they were 9 years old.

All told, results indicated that people from divorced families were less likely to call their relationship with their parents reliable. What’s more, people whose parents had gotten divorced before they were 5 years old were even more insecure than those who’d split later on.

Perhaps this has to do with the obvious: the fact that kids over 5 can tackle heavier topics of conversation with their parents and friends, and cope with more complicated emotions (e.g., why don’t daddy and mommy love each other? Do they still love me?).

The study, conducted by R. Chris Fraley at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, also found that in the wake of divorce, relationships with dads were more strained than with moms, although this mostly had to do with the fact that most of the kids lived with their moms, so it’s understandable that that bond was more solid.

Fraley concludes: “People's relationships with their parents and romantic partners play important roles in their lives. This research brings us one step closer to understanding why it is that some people have relatively secure relationships with close others whereas others have more difficulty opening up to and depending on important people in their lives."

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