Children First – Research Highlights

Research Highlights

Caught in the Middle: Protecting the Children of High-Conflict Divorce, Carla B. Garrity and Mitchell A. Baris. New York: Lexington Books, 1994.

“For children, divorce is not a one-time event but a continuous process. Over time, it shapes and reshapes their lives and perceptions of the world.” [p.12]

“The ongoing conflict between their parents is a constant reminder to the children that their right to be loved and cared for by both parents has been irretrievably compromised.” [p.20]

“As adults, these children typically experience problems with intimate relationships, conflict resolution, and self-identity. Growing up without a model for loving relationships between men and women, children of high-conflict divorce are frequently unable to maintain their own marriages successfully. Not having learned the skills of communicating, cooperating, and resolving disputes, they lack problem-solving strategies and tools for handling conflict in an intimate relationship. . . . These children often face hard struggles in defining their own identity.” [p.27]

“Children’s psychological adjustment is very directly affected by the amount and intensity of adult anger they experience. The more severe the conflict, the greater the effect.” [p.41]

Children and Divorce: What to Expect — How to Help, Archibald D. Hart. Dallas: Word Publishing, 1982, 1989.

“The anger and resentment between the parents, which is so prevalent in most divorces, creates intense fear in the child.” [p.28]

“The damage to a child’s self-esteem during a divorce usually comes not so much from the loss of united parents and a single home as from the indignities caused by other people’s reactions, the legal process, and the way the child is battered emotionally. When children are treated like pieces of property to be bartered, when their feelings and wishes are ignored, when they are used as hostages in a parent’s effort to gain material advantages in a settlement, or when they are used as weapons to satisfy an urge for revenge against the other spouse, you have a situation that has the potential to do a great deal of harm to the way a child values himself or herself.” [p.108]

Divorce Wars: Interventions with Families in Conflict, Elizabeth M. Ellis. Baltimore: Port City Press, 2000.

“Although active quarrelling predicted poor outcomes in children, active fighting between parents combined with a lack of warmth toward each other and a lack of concern for family members tripled the rate of juvenile delinquency in these children.” [p.42]

“Ongoing postdivorce conflict reinforces the child’s belief that bad things will continue to happen to him or her in the future and that he or she is helpless to do anything about it.” [p.197]

Good Parenting Through Your Divorce, Mary Ellen Hannibal. New York: Marlow and Company, 2002.

“Divorce causes tremendous loyalty issues in kids; they feel very uncomfortable about acting as a go-between. When you fight you put your child in an impossible position… To put it simply, you and your co-parent may hurl pain at each other but the person you are hitting most squarely is your child.” [p.37-38]

“Conflict essentially stops kids in their tracks—they are less free to go about the business of being a kid, meeting the developmental tasks that are essential to forming a healthy self.” [p.58]

Growing Up with Divorce: Helping Your Child Avoid Immediate and Later Emotional Problems, Neil Kalter. New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1990.

“Conflict between parents is one of the most serious stressors a child encounters during the immediate crisis of parental divorce.” [p.12]

“A major stressor for children in the long-range phase of the divorce process is continued interparental hostility.” [p.17]

“Parental warfare is perhaps the most damaging environmental source of stress that can undermine their successful adaptation to divorce… However, it is not only sadness and anger that can burden early elementary school children whose parents are embroiled in an anger-filled, bitter divorce… [T]hese children are also prone to developing depressive reactions…” [p.225]

Helping Children Cope with Divorce, Edward Teyber. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1992.

“Children are more likely to develop personality and behavioral problems in unhappy, unloving families in which the parents fight continually than in any other kind of family situation.” [p.19]

“Parents must realize how much children suffer when they are embroiled in parental battles and take steps to manage their anger responsibly, shield children from parental conflicts, and work cooperatively in [each] child’s best interest.” [p.80]

“Parental cooperation, or at least the absence of overt conflict, is essential for children’s secure adjustment.” [p.81]

In the Best Interest of the Child: How to Protect Your Child from the Pain of Your Divorce, Stanton E. Samenow. New York: Crown Publishers, 2002.

“Having lost the family as a unit, children are apprehensive about the future… [S]ome youngsters feel they have lost any semblance of control over their lives… A school counselor described a youngster in her divorce group as ‘feeling like a human guinea pig.’ … Their fear and sense of powerlessness are heightened when children witness scenes in which their parents are at each other’s throats.” [p.19-21]

Parenting After Divorce: A Guide to Resolving Conflicts and Meeting Your Children’s Needs, Philip M. Stahl.
Atascadero, California: Impact Publishers, Inc., 2000.

“Statistics suggest that about twenty percent of the parents who separate and divorce will have very high conflict for many years after the divorce. The courts can’t help these folks, but a commitment to their children can.” [p.3]

“Conflicts between parents are likely to cause [in children]:

Tension, anxiety, and regression

Feelings of confusion and embarrassment

Feelings of responsibility and self-blame

Withdrawal or clinging behavior at transitions

Long-term emotional and behavioral wounds

Feelings of disillusionment, fear, insecurity, or vulnerability

Temper tantrums, school problems, or self-destructive behaviors

” [p.25]

Renegotiating Family Relationships: Divorce, Child Custody, and Mediation, Robert E. Emery. New York: The Guilford Press, 1994.  

“Some children do side with one parent or the other following a separation or divorce. In other families, loyalties are so deeply divided that different children end up allying with a different parent. However, from the children’s perspective, the biggest problem often is not choosing the right side but having to choose at all.

This is especially true in acrimonious divorces… Empirical evidence consistently points to parental conflict as the factor that most consistently predicts maladjustment among children whose parents have separated or divorced (Amato & Keith, 1991b; Emery, 1982, 1988; Grych & Fincham, 1990). Clinical experience and recent research (Buchanan, Maccoby, & Dornbusch, 1991) indicate that a particular problem is when children feel caught in the middle of a custody dispute. Most children do not want to be forced to take sides with one parent against the other, and as fervently as they may wish for a reconciliation, children’s foremost desire often is for their parents to stop all of their fighting.” [p.13]

The Co-Parenting Survival Guide: Letting Go of Conflict after a Difficult Divorce, Elizabeth S. Thayer and Jeffrey Zimmerman. Oakland, California: New Harbinger Publications, Inc., 2001.

“It may be hard to remember this, but children’s needs intensify during a divorce. They feel the stress and they experience the conflict. Their lives are turned upside down. They didn’t ask for the divorce, but they’re subjected to seeing the two people they love most engaged in a bloodless but at times bitter and devastating battle.” [p.2]

What About the Kids?, Judith S. Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee. New York: Hyperion, 2003.

“High conflict between parents not only causes children immense suffering, it causes serious problems in their development. They soon have the sense that they cannot trust any adults.” [p.204]

“Studies show that a child who is ordered into going back and forth between two homes occupied by intensely angry adults feels safe nowhere.” [p.206]

“Children caught in the flames of a high-conflict divorce have been referred to as ‘children of Armageddon’— victims of the final war on earth. They are true casualties. Parents trapped in mutual anger often become heedless of anything else.” [p.213-214]