Children of divorce: recent findings regarding long-term effects and recent studies of joint and sole custody

Pediatr Rev. 1990 Jan;11(7):197-204. doi: 10.1542/pir.11-7-197.


The 10-year study revealed that the effects of divorce on children are often long lasting. Children are especially affected because divorce occurs within their formative years. What they see and experience during the failing marriage becomes a part of their view of themselves and of society. Although the findings from the study are, in some respects, dismaying, what emerges clearly is that a successfully reestablished family or a successful remarriage can improve the quality of life for both adults and children. The divorce may resolve the family conflict and allow the children to preserve a relationship with both parents. Divorce may also be useful in putting some distance between a child and a disturbed parent. Under these conditions, children may show accelerated maturity and independence. They may also bring to young adulthood a morality that places high value on sustaining relationships and on love, fidelity, and compassion. The results of the longitudinal study, as well as those of the two joint custody studies, indicate that ongoing conflict between divorced parents has especially detrimental effects on the children and that children are particularly at risk when they have frequent and continuing access to both parents who are hostile and uncooperative with each other. Mandated joint custody and frequent visitation in these situations may not be advisable. On the other hand, among children in chronically disturbed and disputing families, there is a wide range of individual coping responses and degrees of resilience. In the final analysis, individual temperaments should be considered and a careful evaluation made of how each child is coping in his or her own particular family environment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child Custody*
  • Child Development*
  • Child Welfare*
  • Divorce*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Psychology, Child*