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Disparate impact discovered on children’s education after divorce

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The state of your family prior to your divorce can have a major difference in your children’s academic prospects after that divorce — but the result of a new study from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) say that the effect may be counterintuitive to what most people think.

What’s the state of your home life prior to the divorce?

That seems to be the most critical factor when it comes to how well children do academically once their parents divorce. Frankly, in households where there’s a lot of parental conflicts, money woes, abuse or other problems that seem to make divorce inevitable, children seem to handle the divorce better.

However, the same isn’t true of children from households where divorce seems to be “unexpected.” In other words, the children coming from households where there was plenty of money, the semblance of stability and little obvious conflict between the parents fared much worse academically than their peers. The children in the UCLA study who came from those backgrounds were 6 percent less likely to make it to high school graduation and 15 percent less likely to get through college.

Meanwhile, the children from lower-class families where money trouble, parental strife and other problems were evident prior to divorce didn’t fare any worse academically than their peers. That may be partially because they often already struggled academically — but children have also been known to thrive once high-conflict parents divorce.

What lessons can be learned from this study?

While it’s probably not wise to draw too many conclusions based on just one study, there are some implications here that parents in troubled marriages can use. Don’t keep your child in the dark about your marital troubles all the way up until the last moment. Children need time to adjust, and they may simply do better academically when they have plenty of warning about their parents’ unhappiness and the likelihood of divorce.

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