Research Report: Children of Divorce

Published: October 11 2006


Divorce can wreak havoc on the lives of children, but University of Florida research shows it helps school-age girls when parents make a clean break, rather than continuing a troubled union.

The study shows that girls whose parents split up score higher on reading and math tests than girls who live with a mom and dad who don’t get along. Researcher Mark Hoekstra says for girls, less stress at home can mean more success in school.

Hoekstra: “In fact, I find a positive effect of divorce in that the girls whose parents divorced, rather than withdraw from the process, are scoring over 8 1/2 percentile points higher four years after the fact than those children whose parents went to the brink and them came back.”

Researchers looked at kids from first to tenth grades. Results found no academic differences for boys, just a rise in discipline problems right after a divorce.

Hoekstra: “These lower outcomes that you observe when you compare these two groups, two-parent-family children to children who experience the parental divorce, is not the effect of the legal divorce itself, but, rather the effect of all the sorts of things that cause parents to get to the point.”

Researchers say divorce can strengthens the mother-daughter bond, which may explain the stronger academic performance.