Children need supportive co-parenting; this means that parents must cooperate sufficiently well to see that the children’s needs are met.The children do not need parents who fight and argue with each other in front of the children, or fight “through the children” by, for example, criticizing the absent parent in front of the children, or offering the damning comment, “You’re just like your Father/Mother.” Since the custodial parent has “expelled” the absent parent from their life for being “bad,” at least in the child’s mind, it stands to reason that the child too could be “bad” and be expelled from the home as well.Other studies have shown about half of the behavioral, achievement, and emotional problems seen in boys from divorced families could be identified as early as four year prior to the divorce. Thus, the same factors that led to the divorce have likely already had a negative impact on children when the divorce actually occurs.There seem to be three key areas to understanding how children will adjust in any specific case. Whiteside and Becker, in the March 2000 Journal of Family Psychology, note that what seems to matter most is helping children adjust in the two years after the divorce is for the children to experience an Authoritative style of parenting.The children may offer it, and become enmeshed in their parent’s emotional world and more sensitive to emotional distress.Alternately, they may reject the parent and try to disconnect themselves from the family as much as possible.They are better able to use extra-familial support.
The third key area to understand how children adjust to divorce is the issue of parental conflict.Research has generally found this to be the most effective kind of parenting.Parents showing an Authoritative Style are also more likely to show more active coping behaviors, feel more self-efficacy, and seek out and receive more social support.Thus, studying 12 year old children of divorce is not as simple as it may appear.
The data is inconclusive as to whether young children are at a greater risk for adjustment problems, but they clearly are harmed by it as much as older children are.
One study cited by Cummings and Davies found that 66% of parental interactions after the divorce were marked by anger and conflict.